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C.B.,  C.M.G.,  R.E.  (Retired),  p.s.c. 








THIS  history  has  been  compiled  with  the  purpose  of  pro- 
viding within  reasonable  compass  an  authoritative  account, 
suitable  for  general  readers  and  for  students  at  military 
schools,  of  the  operations  of  the  British  Army  in  the 
Western  theatre  of  war  in  1914-1918.  It  is  based  on  the 
British  official  records. 

The  present  volume  covers  events  from  mobilization 
up  to  the  middle  of  October  1914  only,  a  period  of  two 
and  a  half  months,  and  is  on  a  scale  which  to  a  large 
extent  treats  the  battalion,  squadron  and  battery  records 
as  the  basis  of  the  story.  In  succeeding  volumes  it  will 
not  be  possible  or  desirable  to  adhere  to  this,  and  succes- 
sively the  brigade,  division  and  even  corps  may  become 
the  unit  of  narrative.  For  this  volume  the  scale  adopted 
seems  appropriate,  in  view  of  the  importance  of  small 
units  in  the  early  operations,  of  the  lessons  to  be  derived 
from  the  study  of  the  work  of  these  units  in  open  warfare, 
and  of  the  desirability  of  leaving  a  picture  of  what  war 
was  like  in  1914,  when  trained  soldiers  were  still  of  greater 
importance  than  material,  and  gas,  tanks,  long-range  guns, 
creeping  barrages  and  the  participation  of  aircraft  in 
ground  fighting  were  unknown. 

The  mass  of  documents  to  be  dealt  with  was  very 
great,  and  the  difficulty  has  been  not  in  obtaining  in- 
formation, but  in  compressing  and  cutting  down  what  was 
available.  The  British  records  comprise  not  only  the 
war  diaries  of  every  staff  and  unit  engaged,  with  their 
voluminous  appendices  containing  all  orders,  intelligence, 


etc.,  received  and  issued,  and  detailed  reports  of  actions, 
but  they  include  also  the  General  Headquarters  files,  the 
Commander-in-Chief 's  diary,  and  practically  every  telegram 
and  message  despatched  and  received.  These  official 
documents  have  been  supplemented  by  private  diaries 
and  papers  which  have  been  kindly  lent,  by  regimental 
records,  and  by  interviews  with  officers  who  took  part  in 
the  operations. 

On  a  modern  battlefield,  however,  knowledge  of  events 
is  extraordinarily  local,  and  the  transmission  of  informa- 
tion difficult ;  in  addition  important  witnesses  only  too 
often  become  casualties.  Though  written  orders  and 
messages  are  absolutely  reliable  evidence  of  the  matters 
with  which  they  deal,  war  diaries  and  reports  of  actions, 
written  up  immediately  after  events,  are  liable  to  contain 
mistakes.  Commanders  and  staffs  are  naturally  more 
concerned  in  finding  out  and  reporting  the  exact  situation 
and  condition  of  their  troops  and  of  the  enemy,  in  sending 
up  reinforcements,  ammunition  and  supplies,  and  recording 
experience  for  future  use  than  in  the  collection  of  historical 
matter.  In  fact,  even  officers  well  known  to  be  specially 
interested  in  military  history  have  confessed  that  during 
the  war  the  idea  of  collecting  or  keeping  material  for  its 
future  historian  never  occurred  to  them.  Many  incidents 
deserving  of  record  may  therefore  have  escaped  notice. 
It  will  greatly  assist  in  the  compilation  of  monographs  or 
of  a  fuller  official  history  in  years  to  come,  if  readers  who 
can  supply  further  information  or  corrections  will  com- 
municate with  the  Secretary  of  the  Historical  Section, 
Committee  of  Imperial  Defence,  2  Whitehall  Gardens, 
London,  S.W.I. 

The  text  and  maps  now  presented  are  the  result  of  the 
co-operative  labours  of  the  staff,  past  and  present,  of  the 
Historical  Section,  Military  Branch,1  which,  in  collabora- 
tion with  the  Disposal  of  Records  Department,  War  Office, 
is  also  charged  with  the  sorting  and  arrangement  of  the 

1  Special  assistance  in  compiling  this  volume  has  been  rendered  by 
Major  A.  F.  Becke,  Major  F.  W.  Tomlinson,  Captain  G.  C.  Wynne  and 
Mr.  E.  A.  Dixon. 



records  dealing  with  operations  overseas.  This  latter  part 
of  its  work  absorbed  most  of  its  energy  and  time  until  well 
on  into  1921.  The  Branch  did  not  obtain  a  permanent 
home  until  October  1919  ;  thus  a  large  amount  of  im- 
portant material  did  not  become  available  until  it  was 
unpacked  and  sorted  after  this  date,  and  it  was  then  found 
necessary  to  re-write  an  account  of  the  initial  operations 
already  partly  drafted. 

The  British  Expeditionary  Force  in  France  in  1914 
was  not  acting  independently,  and  formed  only  a  small 
part  of  the  Allied  Armies  engaged  ;  it  has  therefore  been 
necessary  to  include  an  account  of  the  action  of  the  French 
and  Belgian  forces  sufficient  to  provide  a  proper  frame- 
work for  the  British  operations.  As  regards  the  Belgian 
Army,  ample  material  for  this  purpose  has  been  published 
by  the  Belgian  General  Staff.  The  French  General  Staff 
has  not  yet  issued  any  history,  but  much  information 
with  regard  to  the  French  plans  and  operations  has 
already  been  made  public  :  officially  in  the  reports  of 
Parliamentary  Enquiries,  semi-officially  by  historians  like 
M.  Hanotaux,  M.  Engerand,  M.  Madelin  and  General 
Palat  (Pierre  Lehautcouri),  and  in  the  form  of  reminiscences 
and  memoirs  by  actual  participants,  such  as  Generals 
Lanrezac,  Gallie'ni,  Dubail  and  Mangin.  It  was  not, 
therefore,  thought  necessary  to  trouble  the  French  General 
Staff  except  as  regards  the  incident  of  the  assistance 
rendered  by  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  at  the  battle 
of  Le  Cateau,  when  a  copy  of  the  war  diary  of  the  troops 
concerned  was  very  courteously  furnished.  With  this 
exception,  it  must  be  understood  that  for  the  French 
operations  the  only  absolutely  authoritative  statements 
quoted  are  the  orders,  instructions,  intelligence  reports, 
etc.,  received  officially  by  G.H.Q.  from  the  French  Grand 
Quartier  General. 

The  published  German  accounts  of  the  early  part  of 
the  war  are  very  numerous,  and  they  deal  both  with  the 
decisions  and  orders  of  the  higher  commanders  and  the 
operations  of  many  corps  and  even  smaller  fighting  units. 
The  most  notable  are  the  books  of  the  three  Army  com- 


manders,  von  Kluck,  von  Billow  and  von  Hausen,  the 
General  Staff  monographs  " Liittich-Namur  "  and  "Mons," 
the  official  list  of  battles  and  engagements,  with  the 
names  of  the  formations,  etc.,  present,  entitled  "  Schlachten 
und  Gefechte,"  and  the  stories  of  participants  like  General 
von  Zwehl,  General  von  Kuhl,  Hauptmann  Bloem  (the 
novelist)  and  Hofprediger  Vogel.1  It  was  originally  in- 
tended to  give  the  accounts  derived  from  German  sources 
in  the  form  of  notes  at  the  end  of  each  Chapter ;  but,  after 
consideration,  it  was  decided  that  such  an  arrangement 
might  prove  inconvenient,  and  that  it  was  better  as  a 
general  rule  to  include  them  in  the  body  of  the  Chapters, 
as  close  as  possible  to  the  events  in  the  British  narra- 
tive to  which  they  refer.  This  arrangement,  in  view 
of  the  difference  of  the  character  of  the  material,  has 
naturally  caused  breaks  in  the  style  and  scope  of  the 
story,  but  it  makes  the  comparison  of  the  two  accounts 

General  Freiherr  Mertz  von  Quirheim,  the  Director  of 
the  German  Reichsarchiv,  Berlin,  which  has  custody  of 
the  war  records,  has  been  good  enough  to  furnish  material 
in  order  to  clear  up  a  few  points  on  which  there  seemed 
insufficient  information. 

As  separate  histories  of  the  Royal  Air  Force  and  the 
Medical  Services  are  being  compiled,  a  detailed  account 
of  their  work  has  not  been  included  in  the  narrative. 

Two  sets  of  maps  have  been  prepared.  The  one, 
distinguished  by  the  word  "  Sketches,"  sufficient  for  the 
general  reader,  is  bound  in  the  volume  ;  the  other,  intended 
for  the  use  of  students  of  war,  is  issued  separately.  Except 
the  situation  maps  for  the  battle  of  the  Aisne,  which  are 
taken  from  the  originals,  the  maps  have  been  compiled 
from  data  and  sketches  in  the  war  diaries  or  furnished 
by  officers,  or  from  French  and  German  publications. 

The  typescript  or  proof  sheets  have  been  read  by  a 

number  of  commanders  and  staff  and  regimental  officers 

who  took  part  in  the  events  narrated,  and  the  compiler 

has  been  greatly  assisted  by  their  advice  and  criticism, 

1  See  List  of  Books,  pp.  xxiii-xxvi. 


for  which  he  tenders  them  his  most  sincere  thanks.  He 
is  specially  grateful  to  Mr.  C.  T.  Atkinson,  his  predecessor 
in  charge  of  the  Branch,  for  advice  and  help  at  all  times, 
which  his  intimate  knowledge  of  the  records  made  most 
valuable;  and  both  to  him  and  to  Mr.  W.  B.  Wood, 
the  partner  in  the  compilation  of  a  book  on  an  earlier 
war,  for  the  reading  and  correction  of  the  proof  sheets. 

J.  E.  E. 

April  1922. 


THE  locations  of  troops  and  places  are  given  from  right  to 
left  of  the  front  of  the  Allied  Forces,  unless  otherwise 
stated.  Thus,  even  in  the  retreat  to  the  Seine  they  are 
described  from  east  to  west.  In  translations  of  German 
orders  they  are  left  as  in  the  original,  but  otherwise 
enemy  troops  are  enumerated  in  relation  to  the  British 

The  convention  observed  in  the  British  Expeditionary 
Force  is  followed  as  regards  the  distinguishing  numbers 
of  Armies,  Corps,  Divisions,  etc.,  of  the  British  and  Allied 
Armies,  e.g.,  they  are  written  in  full  for  Armies,  but  in 
Roman  figures  for  Corps,  and  in  Arabic  for  smaller  forma- 
tions and  units,  except  Artillery  Brigades,  which  are 
Roman  ;  thus  :  Fourth  Army,  IV.  Corps,  4th  Division, 
4th  Infantry  Brigade,  4th  Cavalry  Brigade,  IV.  Brigade, 

German  formations  and  units,  to  distinguish  them 
clearly  from  the  Allies,  are  printed  in  italic  characters, 
thus  :  First  Army,  I.  Corps,  1st  Division. 

The  usual  Army,  and  sometimes  the  Army  List, 
abbreviations  of  regimental  names  have  been  used  in  the 
narrative;  for  example,  "2/R.  West  Kent"  or  "West 
Rents  "  for  2nd  Battalion  The  Queen's  Own  (Royal  West 
Kent  Regiment);  "the  Somerset"  or  "Somerset  L.I."  for 
The  Somerset  Light  Infantry ;  K.O.Y.L.I.  for  the  King's 
Own  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry ;  K.R.R.C.  for  The  King's 
Royal  Rifle  Corps.  To  avoid  constant  repetition,  the 
"Royal"  in  regimental  titles  is  often  omitted  and,  for 
instance,  the  Royal  Warwickshire  are  called  "the  War- 

Abbreviations  employed  occasionally  are  : — 
G.H.Q.  for  British  General  Headquarters. 
G.Q.G.  for  French  Grand  Quartier  General  (usually  spoken 

as  "  Grand  Q.G."). 
VOL.  i  xi  b 


O.H.L.  for  German  Oberste  Heeresleitung  (German  Supreme 
Command).  N.B. — "G.H.Q."  in  German  means 
Grosses  Haupt-Quartier,  that  is  the  Kaiser's 
Headquarters,  political,  military  and  naval,  as 
distinguished  from  O.H.L. 

Officers  are  described  by  the  rank  which  they  held  at 
the  period  under  consideration. 

The  accents  in  French  and  Belgian  place  names  well 
known  to  British  troops  have  been  omitted. 

The  meaning  of  Reserve,  Ersatz,  Landwehr  as  applied 
to  German  formations  is  explained  on  pp.  21,  22.  Of  other 
German  terms  used,  Jdger  and  Schutzen  both  signify 
riflemen  formed  in  special  battalions  ;  Abteilung  means 
a  group  of  three  batteries  of  artillery ;  a  German  artillery 
brigade  consists  of  two  regiments  each  of  two  or  three 

Pioniere  :  are  the  German  field  Engineers  ;  the  word 
cannot  well  be  translated  by  "  Engineers  "  or  "  Pioneers," 
as  the  men  in  the  Pioniere  units,  although  they  have  a 
thorough  training  in  field  engineering,  are  not  tradesmen 
of  the  class  found  in  R.E.  Companies,  and  are  only  employed 
on  field  duties  ;  besides,  in  Germany  there  was  an  "  In- 
genieur  Korps,"  which  had  duties  in  the  construction  and 
maintenance  of  fortresses. 

Time  in  German  narratives  and  orders,  which  in  the 
period  dealt  with  was  one  hour  earlier  than  British,  has 
been  corrected  to  our  standard,  unless  it  has  specifically 
stated  against  it  "  German  time." 

1  Abteilung  also  means  a  mounted  machine-gun  battery  with  cavalry,  as 
opposed  to  the  M.G.  Kompagnie,  which  forms  part  of  an  infantry  regiment 
or  Jdger  battalion. 


(Kindly  pointed  out  by  various  correspondents.) 

Page      7,  line  29.     Add  footnote  :    "  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  was  left 

,,  64,  penultimate  line.  Add  footnote  :  "  Two  companies  of  the 
1 /Fifth  Fusiliers  were  in  the  line,  the  remainder  of  the  battalion 
was  in  brigade  reserve  with  the  Lincolnshire." 

,,       77,  line  16.     For  "  supporting  "  read  "  reserve". 

,,  78,  line  13  from  bottom.  Add  after  "R.E.,"  :  "the  next  bridge 
near  Pommeroeul  by  the  1st  Field  Squadron  R.E." 

80,  line  17.  Add  footnote  :  "  The  2/R.  Irish  Rifles  had  been 
attached  about  2.30  P.M.  to  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade  and 
relieved  the  Royal  Scots  on  Hill  93." 

„  82,  line  9  from  bottom.  Add  after  "  Nouvelles."  the  words  :  "  The 
two  Guards  battalions  and  the  Royal  Irish  Rifles  left  Hill  93 
shortly  after  2  A.M." 

„  91,  lines  18-20.  Delete  the  words  "  by  the  South  Lancashire 
.  .  .  two  brigades."  It  would  appear  that  the  German 
attack  was  delivered  before  the  brigades  began  to  withdraw. 

„  117,  line  14.  Add  after  "enemy"  the  words  "except  a  few 

„     118,  line  6.     For  "  south-west  "  read  "  3  miles  south-east". 
,,     119,  line  18.     For  "  division  "  read  "  Cavalry  Division  ". 

„  119,  line  5  from  bottom.  After  "  slowly "  add  the  words  "  on 
account  of  the  units  in  front  continually  halting,". 

,,     128,  line  22.     For  "  Reumont  "  read  "  Maurois". 

„     128,  line  23.     For  "  2  A.M."  read  "  in  the  grey  dawn". 

„  132,  note  1,  line  8.  For  "  (west  of  Bousies)  "  read  "  (south-east  of 

,,  139,  first  footnote.  Add  :  "  Half  a  squadron  North  Irish  Horse 
reported  to  4th  Division  Headquarters  on  the  evening  of  the 
25th,  and  was  sent  to  assist  the  flank  detachment  of  the 
R.  Inniskilling  Fusiliers  at  Bevillers.  During  the  night, 
however,  it  lost  touch  of  the  4th  Division  and  fought  at 
Caudry  on  the  26th  with  the  3rd  Division,  not  returning  to 
the  4th  until  late  on  the  28th." 

„     163,  line  10.     For  "  121st  "  read  "  124th". 

„     166,  line  27.     For  "  Two  half-companies  "  read  "  Three  platoons  ". 

„     166,  line  29.     For  "  here  the  59th  Field  Company  R.E.  had  joined 
them  "  read  "  here  they  found  the  59th  Fd.  Co.  R.E.". 


Pace  166,  line  6  from  bottom.     For  "  the  Highlanders  ...  at  1200  yards 
range  "  read  :  "  the  Highlanders,  Middlesex  and  R.E.  opened 
fire  at  1500  yards  range  ". 
„     167,  line  6  from  bottom.     For  "  south-west  "  read  "  south-east ". 

175.  Add  as  footnote  3  to  last  line  of  the  text  :  "  Lieut.-Colonel 
F.  G.  Anley,  commanding  2/Essex  Regiment  on  the  left  of 
the  line,  received  two  direct  reports  from  the  French  cavalry, 
one  about  ten  minutes  before  the  attack  opened,  and  another 
about  noon,  both  saying  that  the  French  were  holding  on  all 
right.  He,  most  unfortunately,  failed  to  get  either  of  these 
messages  through  to  12th  Brigade  Headquarters." 

182,  first  footnote,  line  3.     For  "  these  losses  "  read  "  the  infantry 

199,  penultimate  line  of  text.  For  "  seventy-five  "  read  "  just  over 
a  hundred". 

210,  line  6  from  bottom.  For  the  sentence  "  the  northern  of  the  two 
bridges  .  .  .  had  crossed  it "  read  :  "  but  neither  the  per- 
manent bridge  over  the  Canal  near  Oisy,  nor  the  temporary 
timber  one  south  of  it  (made  by  the  23rd  Fd.  Co.  R.E.  by 
felling  trees,  as  the  permanent  bridge  was  in  full  view  of  the 
high  ground  near)  were  blown  up  or  destroyed,  though  pre- 
pared for  demolition,  as  at  the  last  moment  the  instructions 
to  do  so  were  cancelled  by  triplicate  orders  sent  by  the  1st 
Division,  1st  Brigade,  and  C.R.E." 

224,  line  5.  For  5th  Division  losses  on  26th,  for  "  2366  "  read 
"  2631 ",  and  for  the  total  on  26th,  for  "  8217  "  read  "  8482  ". 

226,  last  line.     For  "  llth  "  read  "  10th". 

227,  line  1.     For  "  All  three  divisions  "  read  "  The  main  bodies  of 

all  three  divisions". 
227,  line  4.     After  "  force  "  add  the  words  "  except  the  rear  guard  ". 

227,  line  5.  After  "  Oise  "  add  "  and  during  the  night  the  engineers 
of  the  5th  Division  blew  up  behind  it  the  bridges  over  the  Oise 
and  Oise  Canal". 

229,  line  4.     For  "  llth  "  read  "  10th  ". 

229,  line  5.     For  "  Hunter-Weston  "  read  "Haldane". 

229,  footnote  2.  Add  :  "  The  suspension  bridge  over  the  Oise  at 
Pontoise  (3  miles  south-east  of  Noyon)  in  the  II.  Corps  area 
was  not  rendered  unserviceable  at  the  first  attempt  to  destroy 
it.  About  8  A.M.  on  the  30th  a  motor  cyclist,  Lieut.  R.  R.  F. 
West  (Intelligence  Corps)  brought  the  officer  commanding 
59th  Field  Company  R.E.  (5th  Division)  a  private  note  from 
Major  M.  P.  Buckle,  D.S.O.,  second  in  command  of  1/R.  West 
Kent  (13th  Infantry  Brigade) — killed  in  action  27th  Oct., 
1914 — informing  him  that  the  bridge  was  still  passable,  and 
asking  if  anything  could  be  done.  Lieut.  J.  A.  C.  Pennycuick, 
R.E.,  immediately  volunteered  to  return  with  Lieut.  West. 
The  motor  bicycle  was  loaded  up  with  a  box  of  14  guncotton 
slabs,  and  Lieut.  Pennycuick  sat  on  top,  his  pockets  filled 
with  fuze,  detonators  and  primers.  The  two  officers  then  rode 
back  the  eight  miles,  passing  first  infantry  and  then  through 
the  cavalry  rear  guard.  They  climbed  up  one  of  the  suspen- 
sion-cables and  placed  13  slabs  on  the  cables  on  top  of  the 
pier,  the  fourteenth  falling  into  the  river.  The  first  detonator 
failed,  only  powdering  the  primer  ;  a  second  attempt  was  made 
and  was  successful  :  the  top  of  the  pier  was  blown  off  and  the 


cables  cut,  and  the  bridge  crashed  down  into  the  river      No 
enemy  appeared  during  the  operation,  and  the  two  officers 
returned  safely,  after  breakfasting  at  a  farm  en  route.     They 
both  received  the  Distinguished  Service  Order." 
Page  249,  lines  22-23.     For  "  Ammunition  Column  "  read  "  Ammunition 

JL  cirlt      • 

„     255,  fir^oPmrf,-»  Penult,  line.     For  "  Petit  Morin  "   read   "  Grand 

„     273,  footnote  2,  line  2.     For  "  right  "  read  "  left ". 

„  282,  footnote  1.  The  numbers  of  the  2nd  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions 
on  Map  25,  which  shows  the  evening  position,  should  be 

„  283,  line  4.  Add  footnote  :  "  A  single  gun  of  the  16th  Battery 
XLI.  Brigade,  which  had  been  sent  forward  in  close  support 
of  the  infantry,  got  a  direct  hit  on  and  destroyed  a  German 
horse  artillery  gun  and  team,  which  were  galloping  for  the 
safety  of  a  reverse  slope." 

„  288,  second  para.,  line  3.  For  "both  bridges  "  read  "the  bridge 
at  Nogent". 

„  288,  line  4  from  bottom.  After  "  Charly "  add  "  drove  off  the 
Germans  preparing  to  demolish  the  bridge  and". 

„  328,  last  line.  For  "  a  party  "  read  "  a  party  of  the  59th  Fd.  Co. 

„     329,  line  2.     For  "  most  northern  "  read  "  two  most  northern  ". 
„     329,  line  3.     For  "  a  gap  "  read  "  gaps  ". 

„  333,  line  10.  After  "  Missy  bridge  "  add  "  where  the  river  was  70  feet 
wide  and  12  feet  deep". 

„  333,  line  14.  For  "  south  bank  "  read  "  north  bank  by  a  sapper  who 
swam  across". 

„  333,  lines  14-16.  For  "  a  small  raft  .  .  .  R.E."  read  "  five  small 
rafts  constructed  by  the  59th  Fd.  Co.  R.E.  of  planks,  straw 
and  wagon  covers,  each  capable  of  carrying  five  men." 

„  342.  Substitute  for  the  first  seven  lines  :  "  2/King's  Royal  Rifle 
Corps  leading,  followed  by  the  2/Royal  Sussex.  The  com- 
manding officer  of  the  former,  Lieut.-Colonel  Pearce  Serocold, 
had  orders  from  General  Bulfin  to  seize  the  high  ground  above 
Troyon  and  secure  it  for  the  passage  of  the  advanced  guard 
of  the  1st  Division,  whilst  Lieut.-Colonel  Montresor  of  the 
Sussex  was  to  keep  his  battalion  in  support  at  Vendresse  until 
needed.  The  leading  company  of  the  K.R.R.C.,  with  a  party 
of  the  9th  Lancers,  on  reaching  the  top  of  the  hill,  surprised, 
about  4.45  A.M.,  a  German  piquet,  but  could  not  progress 
much  further,  so  that  Colonel  Serocold  sent  up  two  more 
companies  to  extend  his  line.  The  din  of  rifle  fire  now  gradu- 
ally increased,  although  there  was  a  marked  absence  of  artillery 
fire,  and  by  5.30  it  had  become  a  roar.  It  was  evident  that 
the  Germans  were  in  strength,  and  Colonel  Serocold  called 
upon  the  Royal  Sussex,  who  meantime  had  been  brought  up 
closer  in  anticipation  that  they  would  be  required  ;  by  6.30 
A.M.  they  were  deployed  on  his  left,  each  battalion  covering 
nearly  eight  hundred  yards  of  front.  At  the  same  time 
General  Bulfin  threw  out  the  Northamptons  to  the  'spur  next 
to  the  eastward  to  protect  the  right  flank." 


Page  343.  After  line  29  (end  of  second  paragraph)  add  :  "  During  the 
whole  day  the  fight  surged  to  and  fro  across  some  three 
hundred  yards  of  ground,  the  fresh  units  which  arrived  as 
reinforcements  being  thrust  in  where  they  seemed  most 

„  344,  line  2  from  bottom.  For  "  south-westward "  read  "  south- 

„     347,  line  7  from  bottom.    Delete  "  (Point  158)". 

„  349,  line  5.  For  "the  first  parties"  read  "the  vanguard".  It  was 
counter-attacked  400  yards  north  of  the  farm  and  driven  back. 

„  349,  lines  17-18.  For  "west  .  .  .  Soupir"  read:  "on  either  side 
of  La  Cour  de  Soupir  and  in  the  open  beyond  it  and  the 
Connaught  Rangers  in  the  farm". 

„  349,  line  21.  After  "  3/Coldstream "  add  "and  Irish  Guards". 
The  firing  line  became  composed  of  a  mixture  of  the  three 
Guards  battalions. 

,,  353,  2nd  para.,  line  15.  Add  after  "  13th  Infantry  Brigade " 
the  words  "  — the  other  two  battalions  remaining  south  of 
the  river — ". 

Add  after  paragraph  ending  "  north  bank "  :  "  The 
ferrying  was  continued  under  fire  all  day  until  7  P.M.  by 
Captain  W.  H.  Johnston  and  Lieut.  R.  B.  Flint  of  the  Royal 
Engineers,  carrying  wounded  one  way  and  ammunition  the 
other.  The  former  officer  received  the  Victoria  Cross  and  the 
latter  the  Distinguished  Service  Order.  Both  officers  were 
killed  in  action  later  in  the  war." 

„     354,  line  4.     Add  after  "  the  13th  "  the  words  "  on  their  right ". 

,,  358,  line  21.  Evidence  appears  to  show  that  the  white  flag  incident 
took  place  before  the  counter-attacks  mentioned  in  line  15. 

„  360,  line  23.  For  "  1/K.R.R.C.  over  three  hundred  "  read  "  I/  and 
2/K.R.R.C.  over  three  hundred  each". 

„  362,  line  15  from  bottom.  "  Montberault "  is  shown  as  "  Mont- 
herault  "  on  Map  31. 

„     364,  line  4  from  bottom.     For  "  eastwards  "  read  "westwards  ". 

,,  368,  line  24.  For  "  out  of  a  wood  between  these  two  points  "  read 
"  out  of  their  trenches  which  lay  200  yards  north  of  a  wood  ". 

,,     370,  line  16  from  bottom.     For  "  Vieil  Arcy  "  read  "  Pont  Arcy  ". 
„     371,  line  7.     For  "  In  rear  of  the  river  "  read  "  North  of  the  river  ". 
„     374,  line  2.     Delete  "not". 

,,  378,  line  9.  After  "  easy  "  add  "  — though  near  the  river  there  was 
hard  rock  a  foot  below  the  surface — ". 

,,  383,  line  18.  For  "  Bridging  Train  "  read  "1st  and  2nd  Bridging 

„     394,  margin.     For  "  Map  13  "  read  "  Map  31 ". 

,,     404,  line  11.     The  move  to  Cassel  took  place  on  the  30th,  not  28th. 

„  424.  Add  under  "  Army  Troops — Engineers  "  the  words  "  1st  and 
2nd  Bridging  Trains." 

,,     453,  4th  column, "  Outposts,"  last  line.     For  "  Army  "  read  "  Corps  ". 

„  458,  lines  8  and  9  from  bottom.  La  Sabliere  is  not  marked  on  any 
map  issued  with  Volume  I.  It  is  on  the  French  1  :  80,000 
(Cambrai  sheet)  issued  to  the  B.E.F.  It  is  a  wood  2  miles 
S.S.W.  of  Busigny,  i.e.  midway  between  Busigny  and  Bohain. 



(Kindly  pointed  out  by  various  correspondents,1  and  extracted  from  the 
French  and  German  Official  accounts.) 

1  In  consequence  of  some  errors  as  regards  the  German  Army  having  been  pointed  out 
by  critics  in  the  German  press,  the  Director  of  the  Reichsarchiv  was  asked,  and  kindly 
indicated,  where  the  correct  information  could  be  found. 

Note. — Where  two  references  are  given  the  first  is  to  the  FIRST  EDITION  ; 
that  in  brackets  to  the  SECOND  EDITION. 

Page  3,  line  8  from  bottom.     After  "  and  the  like  "  add  footnote  : 

"  An  assurance  has  been  received  from  the  Reichsarchiv 
that  neither  in  the  Marine  Archiv  (Navy  Historical  Section) 
nor  in  the  Military  Section  and  the  Espionage  Section  has 
anything  of  the  nature  of  the  sabotage  system  mentioned  in 
the  text  been  discovered." 

Doubtless  the  arrangements  detected  in  the  Empire  were 
the  work  of  irresponsible  individuals.  An  unequivocal  case  of 
individual  action  took  place  on  the  1st  January,  1915,  near 
Broken  Hill,  South  Australia,  when  two  Turks  armed  with 
rifles  ambushed  a  picnic  train,  killing  three  men  and  one 
woman  and  wounding  seven. 

Page  7,  line  13  from  bottom  (12  from  bottom).  For  "  twenty  guns  " 
read  :  "  twenty-four  guns  ". 

Page  14,  line  7  from  bottom.  After  "  The  frontier  had  no  natural  pro- 
tection "  add  :  "  both  banks  of  the  Rhine  and  the  crest  of 
the  Vosges  being  in  German  hands  ". 

Page  15.    Add  to  footnote  3  :   "  See  footnote  correction  to  page  21  ". 

Page  21,  lines  3-9.     Add  footnote  : 

"The  German  Official  History  of  the  War,  Military 
Operations  on  Land,  Volume  I.,  pages  38-39  gives  the  following 
totals  for  Germany  : 

Peace  strength  ....  847,000 
Trained  officers  &  men  (excluding  Navy)  4,900,000 
Total  available  for  military  service  .  9,750,000  " 

"  The  same  source  gives  for  France  : 
Peace  strength  (including  coloured 

troops  and  Foreign  Legion)      .     1,052,000 
Trained  officers  &  men  (excluding  Navy)   5,067,000 
Total  available  for  military  service      .     5,940,000  ' 


Page  22,  lines    6-15.     For    the    paragraph    "  In    peace   .   .   .  divisions." 
substitute  : 

"The  Ersatz  brigades  and  divisions  of  1914  were  not 
formed  from  untrained  men  of  the  Ersatz  Reserve,3  but  from 
trained  men  supernumerary  to  the  numbers  required  for  the 
Active  and  Reserve  formations.  They  were  organized  like 
the  Reserve  formations  but  had  not  the  full  establishment  of 
machine  guns,  cavalry,  or  artillery,  and  were  entirely  without  field 
kitchens,  medical  units,  train  and  ammunition  columns.  They 
were  therefore  not  equivalent  to  other  brigades  and  divisions 
in  open  warfare.  (Correction  furnished  by  a  German  officer.) " 

2  This  consisted  of  men  temporarily  unfit,  or  fit  and  liable  for  military  service  but  not 
called  up  for  training  either  because  they  were  supernumerary  to  the  annual  contingent^ 
or  for  family  reasons,  or  on  account  of  minor  physical  defects. 

Page  23.     Add  to  footnote  : 

"  The  Reichsarchiv  states  that  no  mobilization  took  place 
in  Germany  before  the  1st  August  and  that  the  Landsturm 
in  the  frontier  districts  was  called  out  on  the  same  date,  not 
on  the  31st  July  ;  the  troops  employed  against  Liege  were 
at  peace  strength.  Movements  of  men  and  troops  were  those 
in  consequence  of  the  proclamation  of  drohende  Kriegsgefahr 
(see  correction  to  page  24)."  Some  local  authorities,  however, 
did  not  wait  for  this ;  for  General  von  Moser  (Commander 
of  the  53rd  Brigade)  in  his  "  Kampf  und  Siegestage  1914  " 
(published  by  Mittler  of  Berlin  1915),  page  1,  says  : 

"  *  On  29th  July  early  the  order  **  Return  to  garrison  " 

*  reached  us  on  the  troop  training  ground  where  we  had 
4  assembled  on  the  previous  day  for  regiment  and  brigade 

*  training.      [This   signifies   that   one   of  the   precautionary 
measures  (see  correction  to  page  24)  was  taken  2  days  before 
the  Precautionary  Period  (drohende  Kriegsgefahr)  was  pro- 
claimed].    On  the  1st  August  "Last  preparations  for  taking 
4  the  field."     On  the  2nd  August  (1st  day  of  mobilization)  the 
4  brigade  reinforced  by  a  squadron  and  3  batteries  left  at  9  A.M. 
4  on  frontier  protection  duty.'  " 

Page  24.    At  end  of  3rd  paragraph  (11  lines  from  bottom)  after  "  Belgrade." 
add  the  paragraph  : 

"  In  order  to  avoid  the  possibility  of  a  frontier  incident 
the  French  government  ordered  that  4  no  individual,  no 
4  patrol,  should  under  any  pretext  pass  a  line  between  Hus- 
4  signy  (on  Luxembourg  frontier,  east  of  Longwy)  and  Delle  ' 
(on  Swiss  frontier,  south-east  of  Belfort),  described  by  a 
precise  enumeration  of  localities.  This  line  on  an  average 
was  10  kilometres  inside  the  frontier."  3 

3  French  Official  Account,  Tome  I.,  Vol.  I.,  page  76.  This  particular  order  was 
repeated  on  31st  July  : — 

"  This  prohibition  applies  to  the  cavalry  as  well  as  to  the  other  arms.  No  patrol,  no 
"  reconnoitring  party,  no  post,  no  individual,  must  be  east  of  the  said  line.  Anyone  who 
"  crosses  it  will  be  liable  to  court-martial.  It  is  only  permitted  to  transgress  this  order 
"  in  case  of  a  very  definite  attack  ".  (Idem  p.  81.)  The  restriction  was  withdrawn  at 
2  P.M  on  the  2nd  August  on  account  of  German  violation  of  the  French  frontier.  (Idem 
p.  85.')  (See  below,  page  26.) 


Page  24,  lines  10  and  9  from  bottom.  For  "  On  the  31st  July  Austria 
and  Russia  .  .  .  whereupon"  substitute:  "At  1  P.M.  on  the 
30th  July  the  '  Berlin  Lokalanzeiger  '  issued  a  special  number 
(Extrablatt),  announcing  that  mobilization  had  been  ordered. 
The  statement  was  soon  contradicted  but  it  was  telegraphed 
to  Petrograd  and  at  6  P.M.,  before  contradiction  arrived, 
Russia  ordered  general  mobilization.4  On  the  31st  Austria 
followed  suit,  and  ". 

«  See  Renouin,  "  Les  origines  imme'diates  de  la  Guerre  ",  p.  146  :  General  Daniloff 
(Quartermaster  General  of  the  Russian  Army),  "  Russland  in  Weltkrieg  1914-15  n  25-6  • 
General  Suchomlinow  (War  Minister).  "  Erinnerungen  ",  pp.  365-7. 

Page  24,  lines  7  to  4  from  bottom.  For  "  which  meant  .  .  .  classes  of 
the  Reserve  ;  " 

substitute  :  "  which  enabled  precautions  similar  to  those  of 
the  British  *  Precautionary  Period  '  to  be  taken  ;  "  5 

8  On  the  proclamation  of  drohende  Kriegsgefahr,  the  following  precautionary  measures 
had  to  be  taken  in  all  Army  Corps  districts  : — 

Protection  of  important  railway  structures  : — bridges,  tunnels,  etc. 

Recall  from  leave  of  all  members  of  the  active  army. 

Recall  of  troops,  if  away,  to  their  garrisons. 

Control  of  railway  and  other  traffic. 

Execution  of  the  measures  laid  down  for  protection  of  the  frontier. 

Move  of  garrisons  of  active  troops  and  fighting  equipment  to  the  islands  of  the  North 
Sea  coast. 

In  addition,  in  the  frontier  districts  :— 

Guard  of  railway  lines ;  defence  of  large  bridges  and  important  railway  junctions,  air-ship 
sheds  and  establishments  important  to  aircraft  and  wireless,  against  attempts  at  demolition, 
including  attacks  by  aircraft ;  removal  of  sick  into  the  interior  of  the  country. 

"  If  a  hostile  attack  is  made  before  definite  mobilization,  or  it  is  evident  that  such  an 
'  attack  is  imminent,  the  Army  Corps  commanders  must  take  all  necessary  measures  to 
'  remove  inland  from  the  threatened  districts  and  protect  all  men  liable  to  service,  and 
'  all  men  found  fit  for  military  service,  as  well  as  all  serviceable  horses.  They  must  also, 
'  as  far  as  possible,  remove  all  material  resources  from  reach  of  the  enemy,  particularly 
'  depots  of  supplies,  the  monies  of  the  State,  petrol.  In  case  of  necessity  measures  must 
4  be  taken  to  destroy  them."  (Correction  furnished  by  the  Reichsarchiv.) 

Page  26,  line  3  from  bottom.     After  "  four  different  points  "  add  footnote : 
**  They  are  enumerated  in  the  French  Official  History, 

Tome  I.,  Vol.  I.,  page  83,  which  adds  that  '  at  Petit  Croix 

4  German  cyclists  fired  on  French  custom  house  officers  '. 
"  According    to    the    Reichsarchiv  :     '  There  were  trans- 

*  gressions  of  the  frontier  by  small  detachments,  contrary 

4  to  the  will  of  the  High  Command.'  " 

Page  27.  Add  to  footnote  :  "  The  German  Official  History  of  the  War, 
Military  Operations  on  Land,  Vol.  I.,  pages  104  footnote  2, 
and  105  footnote  1,  revives  the  charges,  although  Freiherr 
von  Schoen,  German  ambassador  in  Paris  in  1914,  in  his  book 
translated  as  '  The  Memoirs  of  an  Ambassador  ',  p.  201,  has 
declared  the  alleged  air  attacks  to  be  4  merely  the  product 
4  of  highly  overwrought  imagination '.  He  adds  :  '  How  such 
4  false  reports  could  have  been  given  the  weight  of  facts  in 
4  pur  responsible  quarters,  and  of  such  momentous  facts,  is 
4  inconceivable.' " 


Page  155,  lines  7-8.  For  "  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade  was  resting  on  its 
position  .  .  .  Esnes."  substitute  : 

"  in  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade,  which  was  on  the  left  of 
the  llth,  the  Lancashire  Fusiliers  and  two  companies  of  the 
Essex  Regiment  had  from  4  A.M.  onwards  been  preparing  a 
position  near  Longsart  and  doing  what  digging  was  possible 
with  their  'grubbers'.  The  King's  Own  had  been  delayed 
on  the  march,  but  towards  6  A.M.  were  seen  approaching  over 
the  hill  in  quarter  column." 

Page  155,  lines  12-13.  Delete  "  The  King's  Own  were  formed  up  pre- 
paratory to  entrenching  ". 

Page  155,  line  17.  After  "  fire  of  machine  guns  ",  add,  between  commas, 
"  after  opening  on  the  outpost  at  the  railway  crossing  north 
of  Wambaix  ". 

Page  166,  line  16.     For  "  3.30  P.M."  read  "  4.30  P.M.". 

Page  246,  first  line  of  footnote  2.  For  "  These  orders  seemed  to  have 
been  altered,  for  "  substitute  :  "  In  consequence  of  an  air 
report  that  the  enemy  had  already  reached  Villers  Cotterets, 
General  von  der  Marwitz  decided  not  to  continue  the  march 
eastwards,  but  to  strike  south  (German  Official  Account, 
Vol.  III.,  p.  194)." 

Page  251.  Add  to  footnote  2  :  "  The  German  Official  Account,  Vol.  III., 
p.  203,  adds  that  it  was  a  I.  Corps  operation  order  captured 
by  the  German  HI.  Corps:' 

Page  333,  last  line  but  3  (last  line). 

For  "  Brigadier-General  H.  F.  M.  Wilson  that  his  brigade 
(the  12th)  "  read  : 

"  Lieut-Colonel  F.  G.  Anley,  then  commanding  that 
brigade,  that  he  ". 

Page  355,  last  line  but  6  (Page  356,  line  27). 

For  "  Bucy  le  Long  "  read  :   "  Ste.  Marguerite  ". 

Page  403,  lines  5-2  from  bottom  (Page  404,  lines  5-2  from  bottom).  For 
"  the  Marine  Brigade  .  .  .  night  of  the  19th/20th  September." 
read  :  **  the  Marine  Brigade  of  the  Royal  Naval  Division  was 
disembarked  at  Dunkirk  on  the  night  of  the  19th/20th 
September  and  the  Oxfordshire  Yeomanry  on  the  22nd." 

Page  404,  line  14  (Page  405,  line  14).     For  "On  the  2nd  October"  read : 

"  At  6  A.M.  on  the  3rd  October  ". 

line  17  (Page  405,  line  17).     For  "  night  of  the  4th/5th."  read  : 
"  night  of  the  3rd/4th." 


No.  11  (Le  Cateau).  The  position  of  the  134th  Battery  R.F.A.  (with  the 
4th  Division)  should  be  850  yards  E.N.E.  of  the  position 
shown  on  the  map.  It  was  in  action  astride  the  Ligny- 
Caullery  road,  facing  north-west. 




Great  Britain     . 

The  Reorganization  of  1908 
The  Expeditionary  Force 
France     .... 
Belgium  .... 
GERMANY       .... 

Composition  of  German  Formations 






England  .... 

Belgium  .... 

The  Operations  of  the  French 

The  Operations  of  the  Germans 




22ND  AUGUST  1914 : 

First  Contact  with  the  Enemy  .  .  .  .53 

Advance  of  the  I.  and  II.  Corps        .  .  .  .55 

The  Situation  at  Nightfall       .....       57 
German  Uncertainty  as  to  the  Position  of  the  B.E.F.        .       59 



Description  of  the  Ground 

The  British  Dispositions 

The  First  Encounter  with  the  Enemy  : 

(a)  The  Salient 

(b)  The  Canal  West  of  Mons       . 






Front  of  the  I.  Corps     ......        72 

Progress  of  the  Fight  in  the  Salient  .  .  .  .73 

The  Line  of  the  Mons  Canal  West  of  the  Salient     .  .       77 

The  Salient         .......       78 

The  Situation  at  Nightfall       .  .  .  .  .80 

The  German  Account  of  Mons  85 



Situation  of  the  British  at  Dawn  of  the  24th  August  1914  87 
The  Retreat  of  the  I.  Corps  .....  89 
The  Retreat  of  the  II.  Corps  .  .  .  .  .90 

The  German  Account  of  Frameries    .  .  .  .92 

The  Fighting  on  the  Left  Flank  of  the  II.  Corps     .  .       93 

I.  Corps  Rear  Guard  and  the  3rd  Division,  9  A.M.  to  1  P.M.       97 

II.  Corps  :  5th  Division,  9  A.M.  to  2  P.M.      .  t  .97 
The  Flank-guard  Action  at  I^louges  .            .  .  .99 
Resumption  of  the  Retreat      .            .            .  .  .103 
Summary  of  the  Operations  on  the  24th  August  .  .105 
German  Movements  on  the  24th  August       .  .  .107 

Note  :  Operations  of  the  French  Troops  on  the  British  Left     .     108 



Orders  for  the  25th  August      .  .  .  .  .110 

Movements  on  the  25th  August : 

The  I.  Corps  .  .  .  .  .  .113 

The  II.  Corps         .  .  .  .  .  .115 

Movements  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies  .     121 

Note  :  Movement  of  General  Valabregue's  Group  of  Reserve 

divisions  122 




The  Affairs  at  Landrecies  and  Maroilles        .  .  .124 

The  II.  Corps — The  Rear-guard  Action  of  Solesmes  .      127 

The   Movements   of  the    German   First   Army   on   25th 

August         .......     130 

First  Belgian  Sortie  during  24th,  25th,  26th  August  .     132 

The  Situation  at  Midnight,  25th/26th  August          .  .133 

General  Sir  H.  Smith-Dorrien's  Decision       .  .  .      134 

Arrival  of  the  4th  Division  in  its  Position  137 




THE  BATTLE   OF  LE   GATEAU.     26ra  AUGUST  1914.     DAWN 

Formation  of  the  Line  of  Battle  .                                         141 

The  Battle  : 

The  Right  of  the  Line       .....     147 

The  Right  Centre  of  the  Line  .                                         152 

The  Left  Wing       .            .  .            .            ',            !     154 


THE  BATTLE  OF  LE  CATEAU.    26ra  AUGUST  1914.     NOON  TILL 

5  P.M.  : 
The  Right  of  the  Line  .  .  .  .  .  .161 

The  Right  Centre  of  the  Line  .  .  .  .168 

The  3rd  Division  ......     170 

The  8th  Infantry  Brigade  and  the  4th  Division       .  .     171 

Summary  of  the  Situation  at  5  P.M.  .  .  .174 


TION OF  THE  RETREAT.     26TH-28TH  AUGUST.     5  P.M. 
The  Right  of  the  Line  .  .  .  .  .  .176 

The  3rd  Division  ......     178 

The  4th  Division  .  .  .  .  .  .179 

German  Accounts  of  Le  Cateau          .  .  .  .182 

General  d'Amade's  Force  on  the  British  Left  .  .      185 

The  Troops  left  on  the  Battlefield,  3rd  and  4th  Divisions  .      187 
THE  RETREAT  OF  THE  II.  CORPS  AND  4ra  DIVISION       .  .190 


28TH  AUGUST         .  .  .  .  .  .193 

Notes  :   I.  General  Joffre's  Congratulatory  Telegram     .  .     199 

II.  The  German  Corps  at  the  Battle  of  Le  Cateau         .     200 



26th  August,  the  Rear-guard  Affair  of  Le  Grand  Fayt       .     203 
27th  August,  the  Rear-guard  Affair  of  Etreux  .     206 

28th  August,  the  Affair  at  Cerizy       .  .  .  .215 

General  Situation  on  the  Night  of  28th/29th  August          .     216 
The  Movements  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies 

from  26th  to  28th  August 
Notes  :   I.  The  Movements  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  from 

Charleroi  to  Guise 223 

II.  British  Losses,  23rd-27th  August        .  .  .224 



29TH-31ST    AUGUST.     THE    EVENTS    OF    THE    RETREAT  CON- 
29th  August        .  .  .  .  .  .  .225 

30th  August        .  .  .  .  .  .  .228 

31st  August        .......      230 

The  Movements  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies, 

29th  to  31st  August          .  .  .  .  .233 



The  Affair  of  Nery        .  .  .  .  .  .236 

The  Rear-guard  Action  of  Crepy  en  Valois  .  .     240 

The  Rear-guard  Actions  of  Villers  Cotterets  .  .     240 

General  Movements  of  the  1st  September     .  .  .     243 

German  Movements  on  1st  September  .  .  .     246 




2nd  September  :  Retirement  to  Meaux — Dammartin         .     248 
Operations   of  the    German   First   and    Second  Armies, 

2nd  September  1914  .  .  .     250 

3rd  September  :  Passage  of  the  Marne          .  .  .     252 

4th  September  :  Retirement  to  the  Grand  Morin    .  .     255 

5th  September  :  The  End  of  the  Retreat      .  .  .     258 

The  Change  of  Base      ......     262 

Operations   of   the   German    First    and    Second  Armies, 

3rd-5th  September  1914  .  .264 



6th  September  :  The  Return  to  the  Offensive          .  .  271 

7th  September  :  The  March  to  the  Grand  Morin     .  .  276 

8th  September  :  The  Forcing  of  the  Petit  Morin     .  .  280 

9th  September  :  The  Passage  of  the  Marne              .  .  288 

The  Cavalry  and  I.  Corps  .            .  ' .  288 

Operations  of  the  II.  Corps            .  .  289 

Operations  of  the  III.  Corps          .  .  292 

THE    BATTLE    OF   THE    MARNE  (6TH-9TH   SEPTEMBER    1914) 

FROM  THE  GERMAN  SIDE  ....  296 

10th  September  :  The  Beginning  of  the  Pursuit        .  .  307 

llth  September  :  The  Incline  to  the  North-East      .  .  312 

12th  September  :  The  Advance  to  the  Aisne              .  .  314 

The  German  Retirement  from  the  Battle  of  the  Marne  .  319 

Note:  Second  Belgian  Sortie  from  Antwerp      .  .  .     322 





13th  September  :  The  Situation  of  the  German  Right  Wing 

on    the    Night    of    the    12th/13th 

September       ....     324 
The  Passage  of  the  Aisne  .  .     325 

The  13th  September  from  the  German 

Side      .  .  .  .  .338 

14th  September  :  The  Day  of  Battle  .  .  .     340 

I.  Corps  :  Advance  of  the  1st  Division  .     341 

do.       Advance  of  the  2nd  Division      346 
The    Centre    and   Left :     II.    and    III. 

Corps 350 

The  Left  Centre  :  5th  Division   .  .     353 

The  Left :  4th  Division    .  .  .356 

The  I.  Corps  .  .  .  .357 

Summary  of  the  14th  September  .     360 

The  14th  September  from  the  German 

Side      .  .  .  .  .362 

Situation  on  the  Night  of  14th  September     365 

15th  September :  The  Deadlock         .  .  .  .367 



General  Strategic  Situation  .....  372 
The  Beginning  of  Trench  Warfare  ....  374 
Operations  on  the  Aisne  : 

The  Week  of  16th-22nd  September        .  .  .383 

16th  September 385 

17th  September     .  .  .  .  .  .386 

18th  September     .  .  .  .  .  .388 

19th  September 388 

20th  September : 

Attacks  on  the  1st  Division  .  .  .     389 

„  „      2nd  Division  .  .  .     391 

„      3rd  Division  .  .  .392 

21st-24th  September         .  .  .  ...     394 

25th-27th  September  : 

The  Last  Attacks      ..... 

28th  September-14th  October     .  .  .  .398 

The    Extension    of    the    Opposing    Armies    Northward : 

The  Race  to  the  Sea 399 

Transfer  of  the  British  from  the  Aisne  to  the  Left  of 

the  Line 406 

Retrospect  of  the  Battle  of  the  Aisne  .  .  .     407 



1.  Order    of    Battle    of   the    British    Expeditionary    Force, 

August  and  September  1914  ....     413 

2.  Notes  on  the  organization  of  some  of  the  principal  forma- 

tions and  units  of  the  British  Expeditionary  Force  in 
1914 427 

3.  Order  of  Battle  of  the  French  Armies  in  August  1914        .     430 

4.  Notes  on  the  organization  of  some  of  the  principal  French 

formations  and  units  in  1914  ....     432 

5.  Order  of  Battle  of  the  Belgian  Army  in  August  1914          .     434 

6.  Order  of  Battle  of  the  German  Armies  in  August  1914       .     435 

7.  Notes  on  the  organization  of  some  of  the  principal  German 

formations  and  units  in  1914  ....     439 

8.  Instructions  to   Sir  John   French   from  Earl    Kitchener, 

August  1914    ....  .      442 

9.  The  French  plan  of  campaign,  Plan  17  (translation)  .     444 

10.  Sir  John  French's   Operation  Order  No.     5,  1  P.M.  20th 

August    1914    (with    march    table    and    allotment    of 
Army  troops)  ......     450 

11.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.     6,    11.55   P.M. 

21st  August  1914       ......     455 

12.  Sir  John  French's  supplementary  instruction  to  Cavalry 

Division,  11.35  P.M.  21st  August  1914        .  .  .     456 

13.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.     7,      8.25  P.M. 

24th  August  1914       ......     457 

14.  Sir  John  French's   Operation  Order  No.     8,     7.30  P.M. 

25th  August  1914      .  .  .  .  .  .458 

15.  4th  Division  Operation  Order  No.  1,  5  P.M.  25th  August 

1914     ........     460 

16.  II.  Corps  Operation  Order  No.  6,  10.15  P.M.  25th  August 

1914     ........     462 

17.  Sir  John  French's   Operation  Order  No.     9,      8.30  P.M. 

27th  August  1914  .  .  .  .  .     463 

18.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.   10,    11.30  P.M. 

28th  August  1914 464 

19.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.   11,  9  P.M.  29th 

August  1914    ....  .466 

20.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.   12,      5.15  P.M. 

30th  August  1914      ....  .467 

21.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.   13,      8.50  P.M. 

31st  August  1914 469 

22.  Telegraphic    communications     between    Earl     Kitchener 

and  Sir  John  French,  30th  August  to  1st  September 
1914  471 




23.  G.H.Q.  messages  to  I.  Corps  anticipating  and  confirming 

order  to  retire,  1st  September  1914  .  .  476 

24.  Correspondence  with  regard  to  halting  on  the  Marne  and 

the  retreat  behind  the  Seine  (translation)  477 

25.  Original  of  Appendix  24  .  .  4gO 

26.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  14,     7.30  P.M. 

2nd  September  1914  ......     433 

27.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.   15,   11.50  P.M. 

3rd  September  1914  ......     485 

28.  Le  General  Commandant  en  Chef  au  Field  Marechal  Sir 

John  French,  Commandant  en  Chef  les  forces  Britan- 
niques,  4th  September  1914  .  .  .  .     437 

29.  Letter  of  Sir  John  French  to  Earl  Kitchener,  7th  September 

1914     .  ....     488 

30.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.   16,     6.35  P.M. 

4th  September  1914  ......     490 

31.  Table  giving  length  of  daily  marches  (in  miles)  from  20th 

August  to  5th  September  (both  inclusive)  .  .     492 

32.  General  Joffre's  General  Order  for  the  battle  of  the  Marne 

(translation)    .......     493 

33.  Original  of  Appendix  32  .  .  .  .  .     495 

34.  Sir  John  French's   Operation  Order  No.   17,      5.15  P.M. 

5th  September  1914  .  .  .  .  .  .496 

35.  Cavalry  Division  Operation  Order  No.  11,  5th  September 

1914  (with  march  table)       .....     498 

36.  I.  Corps  Operation  Order  No.  10,  5th  September  1914    .     500 

37.  II.  Corps  Operation  Order  No.  15,  5th  September  1914    .     501 

38.  III.  Corps  Operation  Order  No.  7,  5th  September  1914      .     503 

39.  Sir  John  French's  Special  Order  of  the  Day,  6th  September 

1914     ........     504 

40.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.   18,   9  P.M.  7th 

September  1914         .  .  .  .  .  .505 

41.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  19,     7.30  P.M. 

8th  September  1914  ....  .507 

42.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  20,      8.15 'P.M. 

9th  September  1914  ....  .508 

43.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  21,      8.15  P.M. 

10th  September  1914  .  .  .     510 

44.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  22,  6  P.M.  llth 

September  1914  .  .  .512 

45.  General  Joffre's  Special  Instruction  No.  23  of  12th  Sep- 

tember 1914    .  .  .  .  .  •     514 

46.  Sir  John  French's   Operation  Order  No.  23,     7.45  P.M. 

12th  September  1914  .  .  .  .  .     515 



47.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  24,     6  P.M.  13th 

September  1914         .  .  .  .  .  .517 

48.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  25,       14th   Sep- 

tember 1914   .  .  .  .  .  .  .519 

49.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  26,         8.30   P.M. 

15th  September  1914  ...  .521 

50.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  27,         8.30   P.M. 

16th  September  1914  ...  .522 

51.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  28,       3  P.M.   1st 

October  1914  .  .  .  .  .  .523 

52.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  29,     11  A.M.  2nd 

October  1914 525 

53.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  30,      8  A.M.  4th 

October  1914  ......     527 

54.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  31,         8.30   A.M. 

5th  October  1914  528 



(Bound  in  Volume) 

Sketch  1.  General  Theatre  of  Operations  (Western 

Front)        •  ....       At  beginning 

„       2.  Operations,  4th-22nd  August  1914  .      Facing  p.    33 

„       3.  Operations,  23rd-28th  August  1914          .  „       „     47 

„       4.  Operations,  28th  August -5th   September 

1914  .  „       „  213 

5.  The   German  Advance,   17th  August-5th 

September  1914   .  .  „       „  221 

6.  Operations,  6th-13th  September  1914       .  „       „  273 

7.  The  Aisne  Battlefield,  September  1914     .  „       „  325 

„  8.  The  Extension  of  the  Battle  Line  north- 
wards, -15th  September  -  8th  October 
1914  .  .  „  399 


(In  Separate  Case) 

Plate  1.  Order   of   Battle   of  a   German   Cavalry   Division   and   a 

German  Corps  in  August  1914. 
Map    1.  The  Concentration  of  the  Armies. 

„      2.  General   Map   of  Theatre  of  Operations  in  Belgium  and 
France,  1  :  1,000,000. 

„      3.  North- West  Europe.     Mons  to  Compiegne,  1  :  250,000. 
„      4.  France.     Compiegne  to  Paris  and  Melun,  1  :  250,000. 
„      5.  Situation,  17th-24th  August  1914. 

„      6.  The  Battlefield  of  Mons,  23rd-24th  August  1914  (layered 

„      7.  Mons,  Sunday,  23rd  August  1914. 

„      8.  Flank-guard    Action    at    ^louges,    Monday,    24th   August 


„      9.  Situation  of  B.E.F.  night  25th/26th  August  1914. 



Map  10.  The  Battlefield  of  Le  Cateau,  26th  August  1914  (layered 

„    11.  Action  of  Le  Cateau,  Wednesday,  26th  August  1914. 

„  12.  The  Fights  at  Fesmy  and  Etreux  (2/Royal  Munster 
Fusiliers  and  1  section  118th  Battery  R.F.A.),  Thursday, 
27th  August  1914. 

„  13.  The  Retreat  from  Mons,  23rd-29th  August  1914. 

„  14.  Situation,  29th  August  1914. 

„  15.  Situation,  30th  August  1914. 

„  16.  Situation,  31st  August  1914. 

„  17.  1st  September  1914  (for  the  Fights  at  Villers  Cotterets, 
Crepy  en  Valois  and  Nery). 

„  18.  Situation,  1st  September  1914. 

„  19.  Situation,  2nd  September  1914. 

„  20.  Situation,  3rd  September  1914. 

„  21.  Situation,  4th  September  1914. 

„  22.  Situation,  5th  September  1914. 

„  23.  Situation,  6th  September  1914. 

„  24.  Situation,  7th  September  1914. 

„  25.  Situation,  8th  September  1914. 

„  26.  Situation,  9th  September  1914. 

„  27.  Situation,  10th  September  1914. 

„  28.  Situation,  llth  September  1914. 

„  29.  Situation,  12th  September  1914. 

„  30.  G.H.Q.  Situation  Map,  8  P.M.  13th  September  1914. 

„  31.  The  Aisne  Battlefield,  1914  (layered  map). 

„  32.  G.H.Q.  Situation  Map,  8  P.M.  14th  September  1914. 

„  33.  G.H.Q.  Situation  Map,  evening  of  15th  September  1914. 

„  34.  G.H.Q.  Situation  Map,  evenings  of  21st-25/26th  September 



BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS  :  "  Die  Marneschlacht  1914."  By  General- 
major  Baumgarten-Crusius.  (Leipzig  :  Lippold,  5  marks.) 

An  account  of  the  battle  of  the  Marne  and  the  events  leading 
to  it,  founded  on  official  records.  It  is  written  particularly 
from  the  point  of  view  of  the  German  Third  Army  by  a  Saxon 
general.  This  was  the  first  German  book  which  told  the  truth 
about  the  Marne. 

BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS  II.  :  "  Deutsche  Heerfiihrung  im  Marne- 
feldzug  1914."  By  Generalmajor  Baumgarten-Crusius.  (Berlin  : 
Scherl,  31  marks.) 

A  further  contribution  to  the  solution  of  the  question  of 
responsibility  for  the  orders  to  retreat  at  the  battle  of  the 

BELGIAN  GENERAL  STAFF  :  "  Military  Operations  of  Belgium  in 
Defence  of  the  Country  and  to  Uphold  her  Neutrality."  (English 
translation  :  London,  Collingridge,  Is.  net.) 

Report,  compiled  by  the  Belgian  General  Staff,  for  the 
period  July  31st  to  December  31st,  1914. 

BLOEM  :  "  Vormarsch."  By  Walter  Bloem.  (Leipzig  :  Grethlein, 
6  marks.) 

One  of  the  most  graphic  and  dramatic  accounts  of  war  yet 
written.  The  author  is  a  well-known  German  novelist,  who 
was  serving,  as  a  Reserve  Captain,  in  the  12th  Brandenburg 
Grenadiers  (III.  Corps  of  von  Kluck's  Army).  He  gives  the 
story  of  his  experiences  from  outbreak  of  war  to  the  Aisne, 
where  he  was  wounded  on  Chivres  Spur. 

BRANDIS  :  "  Die  Sturmer  von  Douaumont."  By  Oberleutnant  von 
Brandis.  (Berlin  :  Scherl,  2  marks.) 

The  author  served  in  the  24th  Regiment  of  the  III.  Corps 
at  Mons,  Frameries,  etc.  He  later  took  part  in  the  capture  of 
Fort  Douaumont,  Verdun  ;  this  incident  is  commemorated  in 
the  title  of  his  book. 

BULOW  :  "  Mein  Bericht  zur  Marneschlacht."  By  Generalfeld- 
marschall  von  Billow.  (Berlin  :  Scherl,  9-60  marks.)  (Trans- 
lated into  French  as  "  Mon  rapport  sur  la  bataille  de  la  Marne.") 
(Paris  :  Payot,  6  francs.) 

A  clear  military  narrative,  with  sketch  maps,  by  the  com- 
mander of  the  German  Second  Army,  which  includes  the  battle 
of  the  Aisne  1914. 



"  Deutsche  Kavallerie  "  :  "  Die  Deutsche  Kavallerie  in  Belgien  und 
Frankreich  1914."  By  Generalleutnant  von  Poseck.  (Berlin  : 
Mittler,  60  marks.) 

The  author  was  Chief  of  the  Staff  of  the  /.  Cavalry  Corps, 
and  is  now  Inspector  of  Cavalry.  It  is  a  very  valuable  summary 
of  the  cavalry  operations,  based  on  the  official  records. 

ENGERAND  :  "  La  Bataille  de  la  Frontiere  (Aout  1914)."  By 
Fernand  Engerand,  Depute.  (Paris  :  Bossard,  7-50  francs.) 

The  author  was  "  rapporteur  "  of  the  Parliamentary  Com- 
mission which  inquired  into  the  loss  of  the  Briey  Basin.  He 
gives  a  summary  of  the  report,  with  important  documents  as 

FALKENHAYN  :  "  General  Headquarters  1914-1916  and  its  Critical 
Decisions."  By  General  Erich  von  Falkenhayn.  (English 
translation,  Hutchinson  &  Co.,  21s.) 

Von  Falkenhayn  was  Prussian  Minister  of  War  in  1914  ; 
but  on  14th  September  he  took  over  the  duties  of  Chief  of  the 
General  Staff  from  von  Moltke.  The  book  deals  mostly  with 
the  successes  of  the  Russian  theatre  of  war,  but  contains  much 
of  importance  as  regards  decisions  in  the  West. 

GALLIENI  :  "  Memoires  du  General  Gallieni.  Defense  de  Paris." 
(Paris  :  Payot,  16  francs.) 

A  most  valuable  record.     With  Situation  Maps. 

HANOTAUX  :  "  Histoire  illustree  de  la  Guerre  de  1914."  By  M.  Gabriel 
Hanotaux.  Nine  volumes  published.  (Paris :  Gounouilhou, 
25  francs  per  volume.) 

A  beautifully  illustrated  work  containing  a  large  number 
of  official  documents,  which  make  it  valuable.  The  ninth 
volume  carries  the  narrative  to  the  6th  September  1914. 

HAUSEN  :  "  Erinnerungen  an  der  Marnefeldzug  1914."  By  General- 
oberst  Freiherr  von  Hausen.  (Leipzig  :  Koehler,  24  marks.) 
(A  French  translation  has  been  announced.) 

A  personal  and  historical  account  of  the  campaign  up  to 
the  end  of  the  battle  of  the  Marne  by  the  commander  of  the 
German  Third  Army,  with  numerous  sketch  maps  and  an  order 
of  battle  of  the  German  forces. 

HEUBNER  :  "  Unter  Emmich  vor  Liittich.  Unter  Kluck  vor 
Paris."  By  H.  Heubner,  Hauptmann  der  Reserve  und 
Professor  in  Wernigerode.  (Schwerin  :  Bahn,  5  marks.) 

A  very  vivid  account  by  a  professor  and  Reserve  captain, 
which  ends  at  the  Aisne  1914.  He  belonged  to  the  20th 
Infantry  Regiment,  llth  Infantry  Brigade,  6th  Division,  III. 
Corps  of  von  Kluck's  Army  and  was  at  Mons,  the  Ourcq,  etc. 

KLUCK  :  "  Der  Marsch  auf  Paris,  und  die  Marneschlacht  1914." 
By  A.  von  Kluck,  Generaloberst.  (Berlin  :  Mittler,  27  marks.) 
(Translated  as  "  The  March  on  Paris  1914."  Edward  Arnold, 

Von  Kluck's  own  statement,  with  a  very  fine  map  showing 
the  movements  of  the  German  First  Army. 



KUHL  :  "  Der  deutsche  Generalstab  in  Vorbereittmg  und  Durch- 
fiihrung  des  Weltkrieges."  By  General  der  Infanterie  H.  von 
Kuhl.  (Berlin  :  Mittler,  27  marks.) 

An  account  of  the  work  of  the  Great  General  Staff  in 
preparation  for  and  during  the  war,  specially  valuable  for  the 
part  dealing  with  the  development  of  the  German  plan  of 
campaign.  The  author  was  the  Chief  of  the  Staff  to  von  Kluck 
and  Crown  Prince  Rupprecht  of  Bavaria,  and  had  served 
22  years  on  the  Great  General  Staff  before  the  war. 

KUHL'S  "  Marne  "  :  "  Der  Marnefeldzug  1914."  By  General  der 
Infanterie  H.  von  Kuhl.  (Berlin  :  Mittler,  48  marks.) 

Published  January  1921.  Regarded  by  the  German  Press 
as  the  last  word  on  the  battle  of  the  Marne  until  the  official 
account  appears. 

LOHRISCH  :  "  Im  Siegessturm  von  Liittich  an  die  Marne."  By 
Oberleutnant  der  Reserve  Dr.  H.  Lohrisch.  (Leipzig  :  Quelle 
und  Meyer,  5  marks.) 

The  author  served  in  the  27th  Infantry  Regiment  of  the 
IV.  Corps  in  the  early  fighting,  including  Le  Cateau. 

'*  Luttich-Namur  "  :  "  Der  grosse  Krieg  in  Einzeldarstellungen. 
Herausgegeben  im  Auftrage  des  grossen  Generalstabes."  (Olden- 
burg :  Gerhard  Stalling,  2-40  marks  +  war  percentage.) 

In  the  series  of  Great  General  Staff  monographs.  A  very 
complete  account  of  the  capture  of  Liege  and  Namur. 

"  Mons  "  :   "  Die  Schlacht  bei  Mons." 

In  the  same  series  as  "  Luttich-Namur."  There  are 
excellent  maps  showing  the  German  dispositions. 

M.W.B.  :  Militar  Wochenblatt. 

PALAT  :  "La  grande  guerre  sur  le  front  occidental."  By  General 
Palat.  Seven  volumes  published.  (Paris  :  Chapelot,  12  francs 

A  valuable  unofficial  compilation,  as  regards  the  movements 
of  the  French.  The  seventh  volume  carries  the  story  of  the  war 
on  the  Western  Front  to  end  of  the  "  Race  to  the  Sea,"  1914. 
The  maps  are  portions  of  the  1  :  80,000  with  no  troops  marked 
on  them. 

"  Schlachten  und  Gefechte  "  :  "  Die  Schlachten  und  Gefechte  des 
Grossen  Krieges,  1914-1918.  Quellenwerk  nach  amtlichen 
Bezeichnungen  zusammengestellt  vom  Grossen  G'eneralstab." 
(Berlin  :  Sack,  42  marks.) 

An  official  list  of  battles  compiled  by  the  Great  General 
Staff  showing  the  formations,  etc.,  engaged  in  each,  and  lists 
of  the  higher  commanders,  with  excellent  index. 

STEGEMANN  :  "  Geschichte  des  Krieges."  Vols.  I.  II.  and  III.  By 
H.  Stegemann,  a  Swiss  journalist.  (Stuttgart :  Deutsche 
Vertags-Anstalt,  24  marks  each.) 

A  good  general  account  of  the  war  from  the  German  point 
of  view. 


TAPPEN  :  "  Bis  zur  Marne."  By  Generalleutnant  Tappen.  (Olden- 
burg :  Stalling,  3  marks.) 

The  author  was  head  of  the  Operations  Section  of  Supreme 
Headquarters  until  August  1916.  His  book  gives  considerable 
insight  into  the  opening  operations  up  to  and  including  the 
Marne,  but  has  led  to  a  good  deal  of  controversy  in  Germany. 

VOGEL  :  "  3,000  Kilometer  mit  der  Garde-Kavallerie."  By  Hof- 
prediger  Dr.  Vogel.  (Leipzig :  Velhagen  und  Klassing,  5 

This  is  practically  a  picturesque  diary  of  the  operations 
of  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division  from  outbreak  of  war  to  May 
1915,  written  by  the  Divisional  Chaplain. 

WIRTH  :  "  Von  Saale  zur  Aisne."  By  Hauptmann  der  Landwehr 
A.  Wirth.  (Leipzig  :  Hesse  &  Becker,  5  marks.) 

A  small  diary  by  an  orderly  officer  attached  to  the  Staff 
of  the  13th  Reserve  Division  (IV.  Reserve  Corps)  that  fought 
at  Le  Cateau,  etc. 

"  Ypres  "  :  "  Ypres  1914  "  (Constable  :  5s.),  translation  of  "  Die 
Schlacht  an  der  Yser  und  bei  Ypern  im  Herbst  1914."  (In  the 
same  series  as  "  Liittich-Namur.") 

Contains,  besides  an  account  of  the  First  Ypres,  a  good 
many  details  of  the  organization  of  the  German  Army. 

ZWEHL  :  "  Maubeuge,  Aisne,  Verdun."  By  General  der  Infanterie 
von  Zwehl.  (Berlin  :  Curtius,  72  marks.) 

The  author  commanded  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps,  captured 
Maubeuge,  and  reached  the  Chemin  des  Dames  ridge  at  the 
Aisne  just  in  time  to  prevent  the  British  I.  Corps  from  seizing 
it.  There  is  a  good  account  of  the  battle  and  much  else  of 
interest  in  the  book. 




THE  year  1871,  which  witnessed  the  foundation  of  the 
German  Empire,  marked  also  an  epoch  in  the  history  of 
the  British  Army.  In  that  year  the  first  steps  were  taken 
to  replace  the  old  army  of  Peninsular  model  by  a  force 
raised  and  organized  on  modern  lines  :  the  system  of 
purchase,  under  which  officers  bought  their  commissions 
in  each  successive  rank,  was  abolished  ;  short  service  was 
adopted,1  not  so  much  with  the  idea  of  attracting  recruits 
as  of  building  up  a  reserve  ;  and  regiments  of  infantry, 
except  those  which  were  already  composed  of  more  than 
one  battalion,  were  grouped  in  pairs.  Ten  years  later,  in 
1881,  this  grouping  was  made  permanent,  the  old  numbers 
were  abolished  and  the  infantry  was  reconstituted  into 
double  -  battalion  regiments  with  territorial  titles  on  a 
territorial  basis.2 

The  old  Militia  remained,  as  always,  on  a  territorial 
basis.  It  was  gradually  drifting  back  to  the  function, 
which  it  had  fulfilled  during  the  Napoleonic  wars,  of  a 
recruiting  depot  for  the  army,  but  without  the  ballot ; 
for  the  enforcement  of  the  ballot  had  for  a  long  time  been 
suspended  by  an  annual  Act  of  Parliament.3 

1  It  had  already  been  tried  in  Marlborough's  time  and  in  the  Napoleonic 
wars,  and  had  been  the  rule  with  the  European  regiments  of  the  East 
India  Company's  Service. 

2  An  excellent  account  of  the  development  of  the  Army  will  be  found 
in  "  The  Army  Book  of  the  British  Empire  "  (H.M.  Stationery  Office, 
5s.).     It  unfortunately  stops  at  1893. 

3  The  ballot  had  been  systematically  employed  almost  all  through  the 
Napoleonic  wars.     There  were  two  kinds  of  Militia  : — the  Regular,  which 
was  permanently  embodied  in  war  time  and  provided  a  home-defence 
force;  and  the  Local,  which,  apart  from  annual  training,  was  only  to  be 
called  out  in  case  of  actual  invasion  and  rebellion,  so  that  it  was  practically 
a  training  reserve. 

VOL.  I  1  B 


Side  by  side  with  the  Militia  stood  the  Yeomanry 
Cavalry,  first  called  into  being  by  the  threat  of  a  French 
invasion  in  1794-95.  It  attracted  an  excellent  class  of 
recruit,  but  its  training  was  very  limited,  both  in  scope 
and  duration. 

Behind  the  Militia  and  Yeomanry  were  the  Volunteers, 
chiefly  infantry.  They  also  had  been  first  formed  in 
1794-95  ;  but  in  1806-7  they  had  been  transformed  into 
Local  Militia,  recruited  by  ballot  without  power  of  sub- 
stitution, and  subject  to  the  same  discipline  as  the  Militia. 
After  1815  the  Local  Militia  soon  died  out ;  but  in 
1859  the  Volunteers  were  revived  on  the  original  basis  of 

The  best  part  of  a  generation,  however,  was  needed  for 
the  new  army  system,  initiated  in  1871,  to  settle  down 
and  bear  fruit.  The  home  battalion  of  a  regiment  was  for 
years  little  more  than  a  group  of  boys  who,  as  they  matured, 
were  drafted  out  to  the  battalion  on  foreign  service.  Only 
in  India  was  the  real  British  Army  of  fully-trained  and 
grown  men  to  be  seen. 

In  1899-1902  the  war  in  South  Africa  put  the  British 
military  forces  to  a  rude  practical  test.  Never  before  had 
so  many  troops  been  sent  overseas.  The  Regular  Army 
was  found  to  be  too  small  for  the  work  even  when  the 
Reserves  had  been  called  out,  and  means  to  supplement 
it  had  to  be  improvised ;  the  Militia  and  Yeomanry 
volunteered  for  foreign  service  almost  to  a  man ;  the 
Volunteer  battalions  sent  a  succession  of  companies  to 
the  Regular  battalions  of  their  regiments  in  South  Africa, 
and  formed  special  active  service  units  ;  and  the  Overseas 
Dominions  and  Colonies  enthusiastically  raised  and  de- 
spatched contingents.  The  experience  acquired  by  all 
arms  and  by  all  branches  of  the  Staff  in  this  war  was 
soon  to  prove  of  the  utmost  value. 

In  February  1904  the  office  of  Commander-in-Chief  was 
abolished,  and  with  it  the  system  which  had  been  built  up 
by  the  Duke  of  York  between  1795-1809.  After  his  death 
in  1827  the  Secretary  of  State,  representing  the  Govern- 
ment, had  gradually  indeed  acquired  most  of  the  powers 
of  the  Commander-in-Chief,  until  few  of  them  were  left. 
An  Army  Council  was  set  up,  which  gave  the  Secretary  of 
State  a  board  of  six  advisers  :  four  professional  soldiers, 
each  of  them  at  the  head  of  a  great  department,  and  two 
civilians,  known  as  the  financial  and  civil  members.  The 
duties  of  the  Commander-in-Chief  as  regards  inspection  of 


troops  were  transferred  to  an  Inspector-General  of  the 

Next  came  the  constitution  of  a  General  Staff,  on 
principles  which  were  decided  at  a  meeting  of  the  Army 
Council  on  9th  August  1905.  The  Chief  of  the  General 
Staff  was  authorized  to  proceed  with  its  formation  on 
llth  November  1905.  Instructions  for  its  organization  were 
promulgated  by  a  special  Army  Order  of  12th  September 
1906.  Such  a  body  was  a  complete  innovation  in  the 
British  Army.  The  word  "  Staff  "  had  been  known  for 
generations,  but  signified  originally  no  more  than  the 
Department  of  the  Commander-in-Chief  as  contrasted  with 
that  of  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War — of  the  Horse 
Guards  as  distinguished  from  the  War  Office.  This  Staff, 
however,  was  an  administrative  one  only;  there  was  no 
such  thing  as  a  Staff  at  Headquarters  charged  with  such 
duties  as  are  now  associated  with  the  name.  Nor  was  the 
Headquarters  Staff  at  the  Horse  Guards  consulted  as  to 
military  plans  and  operations.  Its  business  was  to  pro- 
vide such  trained  men  as  the  Cabinet  required,  not  to  advise 
as  to  their  duties  or  employment. 

The  General  Staff  came  into  being  under  the  guidance 
of  Mr.  (now  Lord)  Haldane,  who  became  Secretary  of 
State  for  War  in  December  1905,  and  was  charged  with 
the  duty  of  reorganizing  the  land  forces  not  only  of  the 
country,  but  of  the  Empire. 

The  need  of  reform  was  urgent,  for  the  Germans  made 
little  concealment  of  their  intention  to  enter  the  lists  for 
the  domination  of  the  world,  and  were  not  only  perfecting 
vast  military  preparations,  but  quietly  insinuating  them- 
selves into  the  control  of  the  most  important  financial  and 
commercial  undertakings  of  their  neighbours.  They  had 
already  established  an  elaborate  system  of  espionage,  and 
were  abusing  the  hospitality  of  friendly  States  by  organizing 
also  a  system  of  sabotage — that  is  to  say,  the  destruction, 
by  secret  agents  introduced  in  time  of  peace,  of  such  im- 
portant means  of  communication  as  telegraph  lines,  rail- 
way junctions  and  bridges,  and  the  like.  Hitherto  our 
ancient  and  glorious  rival  had  been  France  ;  but  this  new 
enemy  lay  to  the  east  and  not  to  the  south ;  and  the  eyes 
of  those  charged  with  the  defence  of  the  United  Kingdom 
were  now  turned  towards  the  North  Sea  instead  of  towards 
the  Channel. 

In  order  to  fulfil  our  treaty  obligations  in  respect  of 
Belgium,  there  was  now  also  a  prospect  that  it  might 


become  necessary  to  land  a  force  on  the  continent  of 
Europe  :  to  protect  the  integrity  of  Belgium,  and  to  operate 
in  conjunction  with  the  French  and  Belgian  armies  in  case 
of  a  German  attack  on  France  which  involved  the  violation 
of  Belgian  neutrality.  Britain  had  always  depended 
hitherto  upon  a  nominally  voluntary  army  for  service 
abroad ;  bu*  the  numbers  that  could  thus  be  raised  were 
unlikely  to  be  sufficient  in  an  European  war  on  a  modern 
scale ;  and  to  combine  a  voluntary  with  a  compulsory 
system  of  recruiting  at  short  notice  seemed  impracticable, 
even  if  Parliament  could  have  been  brought  to  assent 
to  it. 

The  problem  presented  to  Mr.  Haldane,  therefore,  was 
how  to  reorganize  the  existing  forces  so  as  to  raise  them  to 
the  highest  point  of  efficiency,  and  to  provide  for  their 
rapid  expansion  in  time  of  need. 

The  Staff 

The  first  step  was  to  build  up  a  General  Staff  which 
should  be  the  brains  of  the  army ;  and  special  care  was 
taken  to  separate  its  work,  as  a  department  concerned  with 
strategy  and  training,  from  that  of  the  old  Headquarters 
Staff,  whose  duties  were  purely  administrative.  The 
instruction  for  officers  of  all  branches  of  the  Staff  was 
provided  at  the  Staff  College,  Camberley,  which  was 
greatly  enlarged,  and  at  the  Indian  Staff  College  at  Quetta, 
recently  founded  by  Lord  Kitchener.  From  the  graduates 
of  these  institutions  officers  for  the  General  Staff  and  for 
the  Adjutant-General's  and  Quartermaster -General's  De- 
partments were  chosen.  For  the  technical  instruction  of 
the  Administrative  Staff  special  arrangements  were  made 
at  the  London  School  of  Economics  for  selected  officers, 
including  Staff  College  graduates,  to  be  trained  in  such 
matters  as  business  management  and  railway  organization. 


The  initial  difficulty  of  providing  a  reserve  of  officers 
was  very  great.  Mr.  Haldane  turned  to  the  universities 
to  supplement  the  military  colleges  at  Sandhurst  and 
Woolwich  by  converting  the  Volunteer  Corps  which  had 
long  existed  in  our  older  universities  into  Officers'  Training 


Corps ; x  and  in  these,  under  the  guidance  of  the  General 
Staff  and  with  the  concurrence  of  the  university  authorities, 
practical  military  instruction  was  given  not  only  to  army 
candidates  but  to  many  members  who  did  not  intend 
entering  the  military  profession  as  a  career.  Public 
schools  which  possessed  Volunteer  Corps  were  invited 
to  convert  them  into  Contingents  of  the  Officers'  Training 
Corps  ;  whilst  universities  and  schools  which  had  not 
got  them  were  encouraged  to  form  them,  and  those  that 
did  so  were  given  the  privilege  of  nominating  a  certain 
number  of  boys  for  admission  to  Sandhurst  without  further 

The  Regular  Army 

The  great  want  of  the  mounted  branches  was  a  reserve 
of  horses  to  make  good  the  deficiencies  on  mobilization. 
This  was  supplied  by  taking  a  census  of  all  horses  in  the 
kingdom,  and  obtaining  statutory  power  to  requisition  all 
that  were  suitable  for  military  purposes. 

In  the  Artillery  there  was  an  insufficiency  of  ammuni- 
tion columns  to  meet  the  increased  expenditure  of  ammuni- 
tion due  to  the  introduction  of  quick-firing  guns.  The 
Garrison  Artillery  Militia  was  therefore  turned  into  a 
Special  Reserve,  to  be  used  primarily  in  the  formation  of 
these  columns  ;  and  thirty-three  regular  batteries,  which 
had  their  full  complement  of  guns  but  few  men,  were 
employed  to  train  them.  The  general  reserve  of  artillery 
was,  by  careful  nursing,  increased.  By  1912  the  number 
of  batteries  that  could  be  mobilized  for  war  had  been 
increased  from  forty-two  to  eighty-one.  The  field  artillery 
was  organized  into  brigades,  each  of  three  batteries  and  an 
ammunition  column. 

In  the  Infantry  steps  were  taken  to  restore  the  observ- 
ance of  the  system,  generally  called  Lord  CardwelPs,  that 
for  every  battalion  abroad  at  least  one  should  be  at  home. 
The  balance  had  been  upset  as  a  consequence  of  the  South 
African  War  and  our  rapid  Imperial  expansion.  By  the 
withdrawal  of  certain  colonial  garrisons,  the  proportion 
was  eventually  established  at  eighty-four  battalions  at 
home — including  nine  of  Guards  that  did  not  come  into 
the  Cardwell  system — and  seventy-three  abroad. 

1  The  idea  of  turning  the  University  Volunteers  into  an  Officers' 
Training  Corps  was  suggested  by  Lord  Lovat  and  others  just  after  the 
conclusion  of  the  South  African  war,  but  was  not  then  taken  up  by  the 


The  Army  Service  Corps,  reorganized  in  1888,  had 
proved  itself  so  efficient  in  South  Africa  that  it  needed 
little  more  than  such  changes  in  organization  as  were 
entailed  by  the  introduction  of  motor  transport.  In  1900 
the  War  Office  had  appointed  a  Mechanical  Transport 
Committee ;  and  by  1911  two  schemes  were  in  operation, 
viz.  (a)  the  Provisional  Subsidy  Scheme,  by  which  civil 
vehicles  could  be  requisitioned  for  military  purposes,  until 
through  (b)  the  Main  Subsidy  Scheme  the  number  of 
vehicles  built  to  the  War  Office  specifications  for  private 
owners  should  suffice  to  supply  the  needs  of  the  Army. 
Both  schemes  were  employed  to  furnish  the  necessary 
vehicles  on  mobilization  in  1914.  In  1912  the  transport 
of  the  divisions  and  the  cavalry  was  reorganized.  The 
horsed  baggage  and  supply  wagons  were  grouped  into 
Train  companies,  leaving  only  first  line  or  fighting  trans- 
port with  regimental  units.  For  each  division  there  was 
formed  a  divisional  supply  column  of  motor  lorries,  whose 
business  it  was  to  bring  up  rations  to  a  point  where  the 
supply  sections  of  the  divisional  Train  could  refill,  and,  if 
possible,  to  take  back  sick  and  wounded. 

In  the  Medical  Services  of  the  Army  many  important 
changes  were  made  in  organization,  training  and  adminis- 
tration.1 They  were  due  not  only  to  the  experience  gained 
in  the  South  African  War,  but  to  the  lessons  learnt  from 
the  Russo-Japanese  War  of  1904-5,  and  to  the  revision 
of  the  Geneva  Convention  in  1906,  which  afforded  a  new 
basis  for  the  organization  of  voluntary  aid.  In  the  place 
of  the  bearer  companies  and  field  hospitals  each  division 
and  the  cavalry  division  were  provided  with  self-contained 
field  ambulances,  and  a  new  echelon — the  clearing  hospital — 
was  introduced  to  facilitate  the  rapid  evacuation  of  wounded, 
which  was  to  be  the  great  feature  of  the  new  system.  Motor 
transport,  though  proposed  in  1908,  was  only  introduced  on  a 
very  meagre  scale,  sufficient  for  peace  purposes.  The  Army 
Nursing  Service  was  put  on  a  firm  basis.  Under  the 
auspices  of  an  Army  Medical  Board,  of  which  eminent 
civilian  specialists  were  members,  sanitation,  measures  for 
prevention  of  disease,  inoculation,  and  the  provision  of 
pure  water,  received  special  attention.  To  keep  the 
medical  service  in  touch  with  the  General  Staff,  officers  of 
the  Royal  Army  Medical  Corps  were  appointed  to  special 

1  They  will  be  found  described  in  detail  in  "  History  of  the  Great 
War,  Medical  Services,  General  History,"  and  are  therefore  enumerated 
very  briefly  here. 


sections  of  the  Directorates  of  Military  Operations  and 
Military  Training.  The  medical  service  of  the  Territorial 
Force  was  organized  similarly  to  that  of  the  Regular  Army, 
and  large  provision  made  for  the  formation  of  hospitals  in 
time  of  war  and  the  organization  of  voluntary  aid. 

The  Militia  was  renamed  Special  Reserve,  to  indicate 
what  it  had  long  been  in  practice — a  depot  for  feeding  the 
Regular  Army.  This  was  a  reversion  to  the  policy  of 
Castlereagh,  who  had  also  turned  the  Old  Militia  (as  it  was 
called)  into  a  recruit  depot.  This  Old  Militia  consisted 
almost  entirely  of  substitutes  hired  to  take  the  place  of 
balloted  men,  who  when  they  had  thus  joined  were  offered 
a  bounty  to  enlist  in  the  Line  and  refill  the  ranks  of 
Wellington's  army  in  the  Peninsula. 

The  Expeditionary  Force 

The  Regular  Army,  or  First  Line,  was  reorganized 
into  an  expeditionary  force  consisting  of  six  divisions  of 
all  arms  and  one  cavalry  division.  Each  of  the  six  divi- 
sions comprised  three  infantry  brigades,  or  twelve  battalions 
altogether,  with  divisional  mounted  troops,  artillery, 
engineers,  signal  service,  supply  and  transport  train,  and 
field  ambulances.  The  total  war  establishment  of  each 
division  was  thus  raised  to  some  18,000  of  all  ranks  and 
descriptions,  of  whom  12,000  were  infantry,  with  24 
machine  guns,  and  4,000  artillery,  with  seventy-six  guns 
(fifty-four  18-pdrs.  ;  eighteen  4-5-inch  howitzers ;  and 
four  60-pdrs.).  The  Cavalry  Division  comprised  four 
brigades  of  three  regiments  each,  and  cavalry  divisional 
troops,  consisting  of  artillery,  engineers,  signal  service 
and  medical  units.  The  strength  was  some  9000  of  all 
ranks  and  10,000  horses,  with  twenty  guns  (13-pdrs.) 
and  twenty-four  machine  guns.  Although  the  nucleus 
of  one  corps  staff  was  maintained  in  time  of.  peace,  at 
Aldershot,  and  corps  had  been  formed  at  manoeuvres,  it 
was  not  originally  intended  to  have  any  intermediate 
echelon  between  the  General  Headquarters  of  the  Ex- 
peditionary Force  and  the  six  divisions.  The  decision 
to  form  corps  was — in  order  to  conform  to  French  organi- 
zation— made  immediately  on  the  formal  appointment 
on  mobilization  of  Field-Marshal  Sir  John  French  as 
Commander-in-Chief.  Thus  it  happened  that  two  out 
of  the  three  corps  staffs  had  to  be  improvised  ;  and  even 
in  the  divisional  staffs  the  Peace  Establishment  allowed  for 


only  two  out  of  the  six  officers  given  in  the  War  Establish- 
ment. None  the  less,  this  new  organization  was  a  great 
step  forward  in  the  preparation  of  the  army  for  war. 

The  Second  Line 

The  Yeomanry  became  the  second  line  of  cavalry,  and 
was  reorganized  into  fourteen  brigades. 

The  Volunteers  were  treated  according  to  the  precedent 
of  Castlereagh,  who  had  invited  them  to  convert  themselves 
into  Local  Militia,  on  pain  of  disbandment.  So,  too,  Mr. 
Haldane  bade  them  either  become  Territorial  troops  or 
cease  to  exist.  Mr.  Haldane  further  reverted  to  the  old 
policy  of  decentralization,  and  entrusted  the  raising  and 
administration  of  the  Territorial  Force  to  the  County 
Lieutenancies,  renamed  Territorial  Associations,  under  the 
Presidency  of  the  Lords  Lieutenant.  The  only  difference 
between  the  two  statesmen  was  that  Castlereagh  insisted 
upon  compulsory  personal  service,  under  the  ballot,  for  the 
Local  Militia,  whereas  Mr.  Haldane  did  not — or  rather, 
in  the  prevailing  temper  of  Parliament,  could  not — do  the 
same  for  the  Territorial  Force.  This  force,  whose  establish- 
ment was  something  over  300,000  strong,  was  organized 
upon  exactly  the  same  lines  as  the  Regular  Army.  Its 
units  were  grouped  into  fourteen  divisions,  commanded  by 
major-generals  of  the  Regular  Army  with  small  Regular 

The  old  Militia  Garrison  Artillery  was  replaced  by 
Territorial  Coast  Artillery.  The  field  artillery  of  Terri- 
torial divisions  was  armed  with  15-pounder  guns  converted 
into  quick-firers,  and  5-inch  howitzers  used  in  the  South 
African  War ;  its  heavy  artillery  consisted  of  4-7-inch  guns. 

So  much  for  the  reorganization  of  the  Territorial  Forces 
on  paper.  Unfortunately,  before  1914,  both  Special 
Reserve  and  Territorial  troops  sank  so  far  below  their 
establishment  as  to  cause  some  anxiety  at  headquarters  ; 
but  it  was  not  doubted  that  many  old  Territorials  would 
rejoin  the  force  at  the  approach  of  danger  ;  and  this  con- 
fidence proved  to  be  well  justified.  It  is  true  that  it  was 
not  anticipated  that  the  Territorials  would  be  ready  for  the 
field  in  less  than  six  months  ;  but  they  had  had  at  least 
some  training  ;  and,  since  their  organization  was  identical 
with  that  of  the  First  Line,  they  could  be  employed  to 
reinforce  the  Regular  Army,  either  by  units  or  by  complete 
divisions,  as  they  became  ready. 


It  had  been  Mr.  Haldane's  intention  to  make  the  County 
Associations  the  medium  for  indefinite  expansion  of  the 
forces  in  case  of  need.  The  rough  plans  for  such  expansion 
were  actually  blocked  out,  some  of  the  Associations  possess- 
ing, in  whole  or  in  part,  the  machinery  for  carrying  the 
p^an  into  effect.  But  the  scheme  had  not  yet  received 
statutory  sanction,  and  had  not  even  been  worked  out  in 
detaJ  Meanwhile,  the  County  Associations  justified  Mr. 
Haldai  e's  faith  in  them,  and  their  zeal  and  ability  were  of 
the  utmost  value  to  the  War  Office  and  the  country. 


The  first  textbook  issued  after  the  South  African  War 
for  the  instruction  of  the  army  was  "  Combined  Training," 
dated  1902,  written  by  the  late  Colonel  G.  F.  R.  Hender- 
son. This,  in  1905,  became  Part  I.  of  "Field  Service 
Regulations."  In  1909  the  book  was  superseded  by  the 
issue  of  "  Field  Service  Regulations — Part  I.  (Operations)," 
and  "  Part  II.  (Organization  and  Administration) "  was 
published  for  the  first  time.  These  manuals  dealt  with  the 
general  principles  governing  the  employment  of  the  army 
in  war. 

Individual  training — that  is,  the  physical  training, 
including  route  marching,  bayonet  fighting,  musketry, 
signalling,  scouting,  and  generally  the  education  of  the 
individual  in  his  duties  and  the  use  of  his  arms — was 
carried  on  during  the  winter  ;  this  gave  place  in  the  spring 
to  the  training  by  units,  first  of  squadrons,  companies  and 
batteries,  next  of  cavalry  regiments,  infantry  battalions 
and  artillery  brigades ;  next  of  cavalry  and  infantry 
brigades,  first  alone  and  then  in  conjunction  with  other 
arms  ;  and  next  of  divisions  ;  the  whole  culminating  in 
inter-divisional  exercises  and  army  manoeuvres. 

The  great  feature  of  the  training  for  the  attack  and 
counter-attack  was  combination  of  fire  and  movement. 
Ground  was  gained  as  the  enemy  was  approached  by  rushes 
of  portions  of  a  battalion,  company  or  platoon,  under  cover 
of  the  fire  of  the  remainder  and  of  the  artillery.  By  this 
procedure,  a  strong  firing  line  was  built  up  some  200  yards 
from  the  enemy ;  when  fire  superiority  had  been  attained 
an  assault  was  delivered.  An  attacking  force  was  divided 
into  firing  line  and  supports,  with  local  reserves,  and  the 
advance  was  often  made  in  parallel  lines  in  extended  order  ; 
but  the  form  was  essentially  elastic  and  adapted  to  the 


ground,  with  the  definite  objects  of  maintaining  control, 
utilizing  such  cover  as  was  available,  and  presenting  as 
difficult  a  target  as  possible  to  the  enemy.1 

Mobilization  was  regularly  practised.  Every  winter 
certain  units  were  brought  up  to  war  establishment  in  the 
prescribed  manner,  the  reservists  and  horses  required  to 
complete  them  being  represented  by  men  and  animals  f^om 
other  units.  In  1910  one  of  the  two  Aldershot  divisions 
was  mobilized  at  the  expense  of  the  other  and  by  volant eers 
from  the  1st  Class  Army  Reserve,  and  so  was  abK  to  take 
part  in  the  manoeuvres  at  war  numbers.  Not  on*y  fighting 
units,  but  also  such  branches  as  the  Ordnance  and  the 
Postal  Service  were  represented  at  manoeuvres,  and  their 
work  was  carried  on  under  conditions  approximating  to 
those  of  active  service. 

All  these  reforms  were  pushed  forward  under  the  in- 
evitable disadvantages  which  have  ever  hampered  the 
British  Army.  Recruits  were  dribbling  in  at  all  tinier  of 
the  year.  Trained  instructors  were  being  withdrawn  for 
attachment  to  the  auxiliary  forces,  and  drafts  of  trained 
men  were  constantly  leaving  their  battalions  during  the 
autumn  and  winter  for  India.  The  commanders,  again, 
could  never  tell  whether  their  next  campaign  might  not  be 
fought  in  the  snows  of  the  Himalayas,  the  swamps  and 
bush  of  Africa  or  the  deserts  of  Egypt — a  campaign  in 
Europe  hardly  entered  into  their  calculations.  It  was 
practically  impossible  for  the  General  Staff  to  keep  abreast 
of  the  detailed  information  required  as  to  possible  theatres 
of  war.  Nevertheless,  British  regimental  officers,  to  use 
their  own  expression,  "  carried  on,"  although  confronted 
with  two  changes  uncongenial  to  many  of  the  older  men 
among  them  :  the  cavalry  was  trained  to  an  increasing 
extent  in  the  work  of  mounted  infantry,  and  was  armed 
with  a  rifle  instead  of  a  carbine  ;  and  the  Regular  infantry 
battalions  were  organized  into  four  companies  instead  of 

In  every  respect  the  Expeditionary  Force  of  1914  was 
incomparably  the  best  trained,  best  organized,  and  best 

1  The  soundness  of  the  principle  of  the  combination  of  fire  and  move- 
ment was  abundantly  proved  during  the  war  ;  but,  as  experience  was 
gained,  it  was  found  that  there  was  no  role  for  "  supports  "  of  the  kind 
laid  down  in  the  pre-war  manuals  ;  reinforcing  a  line  already  stopped 
by  casualties  merely  meant  increasing  losses  without  corresponding  gain  ; 
and  it  became  apparent  that  the  proper  employment  of  "  local  reserves  " 
was  to  exploit  local  successes,  and  to  fill  defensively  gaps  in  an  attacking 
line  that  had  been  brought  to  a  standstill. 


equipped  British  Army  that  ever  went  forth  to  war.1 
Except  in  the  matter  of  co-operation  between  aeroplanes 
and  artillery,  and  use  of  machine  guns,  its  training  would 
stand  comparison  in  all  respects  with  that  of  the  Germans.2 
Where  it  fell  short  of  our  enemies  was  first  and  foremost 
in  numbers  ;  so  that,  though  not  "  contemptible,"  it  was 
almost  negligible  in  comparison  with  continental  armies 
even  of  the  smaller  States.3  In  heavy  guns  and  howitzers, 
high-explosive  shell,  trench  mortars,  hand-grenades,4  and 
much  of  the  subsidiary  material  required  for  siege  and 
trench  warfare,  it  was  almost  wholly  deficient.  Further, 
no  steps  had  been  taken  to  instruct  the  army  in  a  know- 
ledge of  the  probable  theatre  of  war  or  of  the  German 
army,  except  by  the  publication  of  a  handbook  of  the  army 
and  of  annual  reports  on  manoeuvres  and  military  changes. 
Exactly  the  same,  however,  was  done  in  the  case  of  the 
armies  of  all  foreign  States.  The  study  of  German  military 
organization  and  methods  was  specifically  forbidden  at 
war  games,  staff  tours,  and  intelligence  classes,  which  would 
have  provided  the  best  opportunities  for  such  instruction. 

The  National  Reserve 

The  last  of  the  preparations  for  defence  that  requires 
mention  here  is  the  formation  of  the  National  Reserve, 
initiated  by  private  enterprise  in  August  1910  with  the 
approval  of  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War  and  the  Army 
Council.  Its  object  was  to  register  and  organize  all  officers 

1  For  the  Order  of  Battle  and  organization  of  the  British  Expeditionary 
Force,  see  Appendices  1  and  2. 

2  The  German  General  Staff  in  1912  considered  it  an  "  ebenbiirtiger 
Gegner  " — man  for  man  as  good  as  their  own.     (Von  Kuhl,  "  Der  deutsche 
Generalstab,"  p.  87.) 

3  The   following,   which   is   translated   from  the   German   Admiralty 
Staff's  "  Der  Krieg  zur  See  1914-1918  :    Nordsee,"  Bd.  i.  p.  82,  is  of 
interest  in  this  connection  : 

"  The  Supreme  Command  made  no  demands  whatever  on  the  Navy  to 
stop  or  delay  the  British  transports.  On  the  contrary,  it  seemed  not  to 
place  much  value  on  the  action  of  the  efficient  (wertvoll)  but  numerically 
weak  Expeditionary  Corps.  In  any  case,  when  at  the  beginning  of  the 
war  Frigate-Captain  Heydel  of  the  Operations  Section  was  sent  by  the 
Admiralty  to  inquire  if  the  Army  laid  stress  on  the  interruption  of  the 
transport  of  troops,  the  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  personally  replied  that 
the  Navy  should  not  allow  the  operations  that  it  would  otherwise  carry 
out  to  be  interfered  with  on  this  account ;  it  would  even  be  of  advantage 
if  the  Armies  in  the  West  could  settle  with  the  160,000  English  at  the 
same  time  as  the  French  and  Belgians.  His  point  of  view  was  shared  by 
many  during  the  favourable  commencement  of  the  offensive  in  the  West. 

4  There  was  a  service  hand-grenade,  but  it  was  a  complicated  one,  with 
a  long  shaft,  that  proved  unsuitable  in  trench  warfare  ;  it  cost  £!':!:  3. 


and  men  who  had  served  in  and  left  any  of  the  military  or 
naval  forces  of  the  Crown,  with  a  view  to  increasing  the 
military  strength  of  the  country  in  the  event  of  imminent 
national  danger.  The  National  Reserve  was  divided  into 
two  classes : I  one  to  reinforce  existing  units  of  the 
Regular  Army,  and  the  other  to  fill  up  vacancies  in  the 
Territorial  Force,  to  strengthen  garrisons,  guard  vulner- 
able points,  or  perform  any  other  necessary  military  duties 
either  as  specialists  or  fighting  men.  By  1914,  the  National 
Reserve  numbered  about  350,000.  On  mobilization  many 
of  the  members  rejoined  military  and  naval  service  ;  the 
remainder  formed  eventually  the  nucleus  of  the  Royal 
Defence  Corps. 

Imperial  Military  Forces 

In  1907  there  was  a  conference  of  Dominion  Premiers 
in  London,  and  the  opportunity  was  seized  to  make  the 
General  Staff  an  Imperial  one.  Britain  offered  to  train 
officers  of  the  Overseas  Dominions  at  the  Staff  Colleges, 
and  to  send  out  staff  officers  of  her  own  as  servants  of  the 
Dominion  Governments.  It  was  urged  that  there  should 
be  in  all  the  forces  of  the  Empire  uniformity  of  armament 
and  organization.  The  Dominions  cordially  welcomed 
these  proposals.  The  Imperial  General  Staff  was  formed 
and  unity  of  organization  was  established.  The  Dominions 
reserved  to  themselves  the  right  of  deciding  whether  to 
participate  with  their  forces  in  the  event  of  hostilities 
outside  their  own  territories. 

The  Indian  Forces 

In  India,  the  reorganization  of  the  army  on  modern 
lines  into  nine  divisions,  six  cavalry  brigades  and  a  certain 
number  of  independent  brigades  by  Lord  Kitchener  in 
1903,  was  designed  to  meet  the  Russian  menace  and  make 
India  independent  of  assistance  from  overseas  for  .twelve 
months.  As  a  consequence  of  the  Anglo-Russian  Agree- 
ment in  1907,  and  the  state  of  Indian  finances,  this  re- 
organization was  never  completed.  The  "  Army  in  India 
Committee  "  of  1912-13  recommended  that  the  field  army 
should  consist  of  seven  divisions,  five  cavalry  brigades 
and  certain  army  troops,  a  force  sufficient  to  deal  with 
Afghanistan  and  the  mountain  tribes  combined,  till  rein- 

1  See  "  National  Reserve  Regulations,"  issued  with  Special  Army 
Order,  March  7,  1913. 


forcements  could  arrive.  This  was  the  authorized  Field 
Army  when  war  broke  out  in  1914,  but  even  this  had  not 
been  provided  with  all  its  mobilization  equipment.  No 
troops  were  maintained  for  the  specific  purpose  of  war 
outside  the  Indian  sphere.  Not  till  August  1913  was  the 
Government  of  India  invited  to  consider  the  extent  to 
which  India  would  be  prepared  to  co-operate  with  the 
Imperial  Forces  in  the  event  of  a  serious  war  between 
Britain  and  an  European  enemy.  It  was  agreed  that 
the  Army  Council  might  count  upon  two — possibly  three — 
divisions  and  one  cavalry  brigade.  Actually  in  1914, 
as  will  be  seen,  two  infantry  divisions  and  two  cavalry 
divisions  were  sent  to  France,  a  division  to  the  Persian 
Gulf,  the  equivalent  of  the  infantry  of  two  divisions  to 
Egypt,  besides  minor  detachments,  and  all  but  eight 
battalions  of  British  infantry  were  withdrawn  from  India, 
their  places  being  filled  by  British  Territorial  troops. 
But  no  measures  were  taken  to  make  India  the  Eastern 
military  base  of  the  British  Empire  by  the  provision  of 
arsenals  and  the  development  of  the  industrial  resources 
of  the  country  for  war  purposes,  except  in  certain  minor 

The  Committee  of  Imperial  Defence 

The  supreme  direction  of  war  in  England,  which 
originally  lay  in  the  sovereign,  and  was  actually  exercised 
by  William  III.,  passed  after  that  monarch's  death  to  the 
principal  Ministers,  and  has  remained  with  the  Cabinet,  or 
a  group  within  the  Cabinet,  ever  since.  Up  to  1904,  no 
precedent  had  ever  been  set  for  the  formation  of  a  Council 
of  War  or  of  any  standing  advisory  body  for  the  Cabinet 
in  naval  and  military  matters  in  view  of  the  outbreak 
of  war. 

In  1895,  however,  a  Defence  Committee  of  the  Cabinet 
was  formed  which,  after  some  changes  in  1902,  was  finally 
turned  by  Mr.  Balfour  in  1904  into  the  Committee  of 
Imperial  Defence.  It  was  then  placed  under  the  direct 
control  of  the  Prime  Minister  ;  and  a  Secretariat  was  pro- 
vided to  record  its  deliberations  and  decisions,  to  collect 
information,  to  outline  plans  necessary  to  meet  certain 
contingencies,  and  to  ensure  continuity  of  policy. 

Much  good  work  was  done  by  the  Committee  in  various 

1  Field  artillery  ammunition  and  rifles  in  small  quantities,  small-arm 
ammunition,  certain  vehicles,  boots,  saddles,  harness. 


directions.  Full  measures  were  thought  out  in  1909  for 
counteracting  any  hostile  system  of  espionage  and  sabotage, 
the  Official  Secrets  Act  being  amended  in  1911  to  give  the 
Government  greater  powers.  An  amendment  of  the  Army 
Act  in  1909  also  gave  authority  to  billet  troops  in  time  of 
emergency.  Lastly,  the  essential  steps  to  be  taken  im- 
mediately upon  the  outbreak  of  war  were  all  of  them 
studied  exhaustively,  and  the  distribution  of  the  con- 
sequent duties  among  the  various  departments,  and  among 
even  individual  officials,  was  arranged  in  the  minutest 
detail,  so  that  there  should  be  no  delay  and  no  confusion. 
The  results  of  these  preparations,  and  the  regulations 
finally  laid  down,  were  embodied  in  a  "  War-book,"  and 
all  essential  documents  were  prepared  beforehand,  so  that 
they  might  be  signed  instantly,  the  very  room  in  which 
the  signature  should  take  place  being  fixed,  and  a  plan 
showing  its  exact  position  attached  to  the  documents. 

Altogether,  Britain  never  yet  entered  upon  any  war 
with  anything  approaching  such  forwardness  and  fore- 
thought in  the  preparation  of  the  scanty  military  resources 
at  the  disposal  of  the  War  Office.  The  Committee  of 
Imperial  Defence  was  still,  however,  only  an  advisory  body 
without  administrative  or  executive  functions. 

From  1911  onward  the  French  and  British  Staffs  had 
worked  out  in  detail  a  scheme  for  the  landing  of  the  Ex- 
peditionary Force  in  France,  and  for  its  concentration  in 
the  area  Maubeuge — Le  Cateau — Hirson,  but,  though  there 
was  an  "  obligation  of  honour,"  there  was  no  definite 
undertaking  to  send  the  whole  or  any  part  of  this  force 
to  any  particular  point,  or,  in  fact,  anywhere  at  all. 


(See  Sketch  1  ;   Maps  1  &  2) 

For  France  the  problem  of  defence  against  her  eastern 
neighbour  was  a  very  difficult  one.  The  frontier  had  no 
natural  protection,  and  the  population  of  France  was  not 
only  smaller  than  Germany's,  but  steadily  sinking  lower 
in  comparison.  She  first  sought  to  assist  the  solution  of 
the  problem  by  creating  great  fortified  regions  along  her 
borders,  alternating  with  selected  gaps.  Thus,  from  the 
Swiss  frontier  to  Epinal  there  were  roughly  forty  miles  of 
fortification ;  from  Epinal  to  Toul  a  space  of  forty  miles 


—the  well-known  Trouee  de  Charmes — was  left  undefended ; 
from  Toul  to  Verdun  was  another  forty  miles  of  fortifica- 
tion ;  and  from  Verdun  to  the  Belgian  frontier  another 
gap  of  thirty  miles.  In  second  line  were  the  second-class 
fortresses  of  Besan£on,  Dijon,  Langres,  Rheims,  and  Laon ; 
and  in  rear  of  them  again  the  entrenched  camps  of  Lyons 
and  Paris.  There  were  no  modern  fortifications  on  the 
Franco-Belgian  frontier,  but  La  Fere,  Maubeuge,  and  Lille 
were  defended  by  old-fashioned  detached  forts. 

The  steadily  aggressive  attitude  of  Germany  justified 
the  uneasiness  of  France.  In  1887  Germany  formed  a 
Triple  Alliance  with  Austria  and  Italy.  In  1890  France 
responded  by  an  Alliance  with  Russia.  In  1891  Germany 
emphasized  her  hostile  bearing  by  renewing  the  Triple 
Alliance  ;  and  in  1899  she  rejected  the  Tsar's  proposal  for 
a  limitation  of  armaments.  In  1905,  1911,  and  1912  she 
made  important  additions  to  her  army,  raising  its  strength 
to  twenty-five  active  corps,  as  against  the  fifteen  with  which 
she  had  taken  the  field  in  1870  ;  and  behind  these  twenty- 
five  she  had  nearly  an  equal  number  of  Reserve  corps.1  On 
30th  June  1913  the  total  number  of  men  with  the  colours 
in  peace  was  raised  from  711,000  to  856,000  ; 2  this  not 
only  made  the  army  the  readier  for  an  attaque  brusquee, 
so  much  dreaded  by  the  French,  but  assured  a  substantial 
corresponding  increase  in  the  effectives  of  reserve  forma- 

France  could  only  reply  by  reimposing  the  term  of 
three  years  with  the  colours,  which  in  1905  she  had  reduced 
to  two  years.  This  signified  an  augmentation  of  220,000 
men  to  her  peace  strength.  But,  even  so,  France  had  at 
the  outbreak  of  war,  roughly  speaking,  only  three  millions 
and  a  half  of  trained  men,  whereas  Germany  had  over  four 
millions ; 3  and,  moreover,  Germany's  Reserve  formations 
were  more  completely  organized  than  those  of  the 

The  French  Army  in  peace  was  composed  of  ten  cavalry 
divisions ;  twenty-one  army  corps,  each  corps  area  also 

1  On  2nd  August  1914  Germany  mobilized  14  Reserve  corps,  4  Reserve 
divisions  and  3  Reserve  brigades  ;  on  16th  August  the  formation  of  6  new 
Reserve  corps  and  1  new  Reserve  division  was  ordered. 

2  See  p.  21. 

3  The  figure  given  since  the  war  by  various  German  authorities  is 
3,891,000.     They  attempt  to  show  France  had  more  by  including  the 
coloured  troops  in  her  colonies,  but  even  with  these  the  total  French 
mobilizable    strength   was    only   3,683,000    (Pedoya's    "Commission    de 
1'Armee,"  p.  203,  etc.). 


furnishing  in  war  a  Reserve  division  *  and  certain  Territorial 
brigades ;  and  a  Colonial  Corps. 

On  mobilization,  according  to  the  plan  in  force  in 
1914,2  the  forces  formed  five  Armies,  with  seven  divisions 
of  cavalry,  and  a  cavalry  corps  of  three  divisions.  The 
Reserve  divisions  were  grouped  into  pairs  or  threes,  and 
allotted  either  to  Armies  or  defences,  or  kept  at  the  disposal 
of  General  Headquarters.8 

The    zones    of    concentration    selected    in    peace    for 
Map  2.      the    five    Armies    were,    commencing    as    usual    on    the 
right : 

First  Army  (General  Dubail) — Region  of  Epinal. 

Second  Army  (General  de  Castelnau) — Region  of  Nancy. 

Third  Army  (General  Ruffey) — Region  of  Verdun. 

Fifth  Army  (General  Lanrezac) — Between  Verdun  (exclusive) 

and  Mezieres,  with  a  detachment  east  of  the  Meuse. 
Fourth  Army  (General  de  Langle  de  Gary) — In  general  reserve 

in  region  Sainte  Menehould — Commercy. 
On  either  flank  was  a  group  of  Reserve  divisions : 

On  the  right — a  group  of  four  Reserve  divisions — Region 
of  Belfort. 

On  the  left — a  group  of  three  Reserve  divisions  (General 
Valabregue) — Vervins. 

The  French  Staff  in  choosing  the  areas  of  concentration 
were  in  face  of  the  following  facts.  At  Metz  there  was  an 
immense  entrenched  camp  touching  the  frontier,  and  con- 
nected by  four  main  lines  of  railway  with  the  heart  of 
Germany.  From  this  a  sudden  blow — the  attaque  brusquee 
— could  be  easily  struck  with  all  the  force  of  perfect 
organization  ;  and  it  was  imperative  to  take  measures  to 
parry  it.  On  the  other  hand,  the  German  school  of  strategy 
favoured  envelopment  from  one  or  both  flanks.  This  in  a 
war  with  France  signified,  indeed,  violation  either  of 
Belgian  or  of  Swiss  neutrality,  or  of  both ;  but  Germany 
was  not  likely  to  be  squeamish  about  such  matters.  Such 
violation  might  not  go  beyond  a  peaceable  passage  of 
troops  across  a  corner  of  the  neutral  territory,  yet  still 
might  suffice  for  the  aggressor's  purpose  of  turning  a 

1  The  Reserve  divisions  were  numbered  by  adding  50  to  the  army 
corps  number  up  to  the  71st  :   thus  the  I.  Corps  area  provided  the  51st 
Reserve  division.     The  XIX.  Corps  was  in  Algeria. 

2  Known  as  No.  17  ;  the  text  is  given  in  Appendix  9. 

3  For  the  Order  of  Battle  and  organization  of  the  French  Armies  see 
Appendices  3  and  4. 


To  meet  menaces  so  different  in  kind  as  direct  attack 
in  the  centre  and  envelopment  on  the  flanks,  the  French 
General  Staff  decided  to  take  the  offensive  and  to  con- 
centrate facing  the  Eastern  frontier,  trusting  to  fortifica- 
tions and  to  covering  troops  to  gain  sufficient  time  to 
move  the  mass  of  the  army  elsewhere  if  required.  It  was 
intended  to  attack  as  soon  as  possible  with  all  forces 
united :  the  First  and  Second  Armies  south  of  Metz,  and 
the  Fifth  north  of  it ;  the  Third  Army  was  to  connect 
these  two  main  attacks  and  arrange  for  the  investment  of 
Metz  as  they  progressed.  The  employment  of  the  Fourth 
Army  depended  on  the  action  of  the  enemy ;  if  the  Germans 
moved  into  Luxembourg  and  Belgium,  it  was  to  co-operate 
with  the  Fifth  Army ;  if  the  enemy  merely  covered  the 
common  frontier,  it  was  to  go  to  the  support  of  the  right 
attack.  A  detachment  of  the  First  Army  (one  corps 
and  one  cavalry  division)  was  detailed  in  the  plan  to 
carry  out  a  special  operation  on  the  extreme  right  in 
Alsace,  with  the  object  of  holding  any  enemy  forces 
which  might  attempt  to  advance  on  the  western  slopes 
of  the  Vosges,  and  of  assisting  in  the  removal  of  that 
part  of  the  population  which  had  remained  faithful  to 
France.  It  was  hoped  by  the  general  offensive  move- 
ment to  dislocate  the  plans  of  the  enemy  and  wrest  the 
initiative  from  him. 

No  provision,  it  will  be  noticed,  was  made  to  meet  an 
envelopment  carried  out  through  Belgium  west  of  the 
Meuse,  nor  to  cover  the  gap  between  the  western  flank  of 
the  Fifth  Army  and  the  sea,  in  which  there  were  only  local 
Territorial  troops  and  a  few  old  fortresses  incapable  of 
offering  serious  resistance  to  any  invader.  The  informa- 
tion at  the  disposal  of  the  French  General  Staff  appeared 
to  indicate  that  the  Germans  would  attack  from  Metz,  and 
had  not  sufficient  troops  to  extend  their  front  west  of  the 
Meuse.  Beyond  arranging  for  an  alternative  concentration 
of  the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies  should  the  enemy  enter 
Luxembourg  and  Belgium,  there  was  no  preparation 
against  a  wide  enveloping  movement. 

On  mobilization,  General  Joffre,  vice-president  du  Con- 
seil  superieur  de  la  guerre  et  chef  de  I'lStat  Major  General, 
was  appointed  Commandant  en  Chef  of  the  French  Armies, 
with  General  Belin  as  Chief  of  the  Staff. 

The  approximate  strength  of  the  Armies  (with  the 
Reserve  divisions  on  the  flanks  included  in  the  totals  of 
the  nearest  Army)  was,  in  round  numbers,  after  certain 

VOL.  i  c 


exchanges  had  taken  place  (viz.  the  transfer  of  two  corps 
and  two  Reserve  divisions  from  Fifth  Army  to  Fourth,  of 
one  corps  from  Second  to  Fifth,  etc.) : — 1 

First  Army  .  .  256,000  men 

Second  Army  .  .  200,000     „ 

Third  Army  .  .  168,000     „ 

Fourth  Army  .  .  193,000     „ 

Fifth  Army  .  .  254,000     „ 

1,071,000  men 

(See  Sketch  1  ;   Map  2) 

In  1914  the  Belgian  Army  consisted  of  a  Field  Army 
organized  in  six  divisions  and  a  cavalry  division,  and 
fortress  troops  which  formed  the  garrisons  of  Antwerp, 
Lie*ge  and  Namur.  Antwerp  was  the  great  fortress  of 
Belgium,  the  final  refuge  and  rallying  point  of  her  forces 
and  population  in  case  of  invasion  by  a  powerful  enemy. 
Its  defences  originally  consisted  of  a  strong  enceinte,  i.e. 
a  continuous  inner  ring  of  fortification,  and  a  girdle  of 
forts,  some  two  miles  from  the  town,  finished  in  1868. 
Though  a  second  girdle  of  forts  and  redoubts  outside  the 
first  had  been  gradually  added  from  1882  onwards,  the  line 
was  incomplete,  there  were  several  gaps  and  intervals  in 
it,  and  it  was  on  the  average  only  some  eight  miles  from 
the  town,  an  altogether  insufficient  distance  under  modern 
conditions.  Nor  was  the  construction  of  the  forts,  although 
improvements  were  in  progress,  capable  of  resisting  modern 
heavy  artillery ;  and  notwithstanding  that  the  guns  and 
flanking  weapons  were  protected  by  armour,  the  fact  that 
they  were  inside  the  forts,  which  were  conspicuously  upstand- 
ing, and  not  in  well  concealed  batteries  outside,  made  them 
easy  targets.  The  same  remarks  as  regards  construction 
apply  to  the  defences  of  Liege  and  Namur  ;  these  fortresses 
were  "  barrier  forts  and  bridgeheads "  on  the  Meuse ; 

1  See  footnote,  p.  39. 

8  The  details  of  the  operations  of  the  Belgian  Army  are  taken  from 
the  official  account :  "  L' Action  de  PArmee  Beige.  Periode  du  31  juillet 
au  31  decembre  1914,"  which  has  since  been  translated  as  "  Military 
"  Operations  of  Belgium.  Report  compiled  by  the  Belgian  General  Staff 
"  for  the  period  July  31st  to  December  31st,  1914"  (London,  Collingridge, 
Is.  net).  For  the  Order  of  Battle  see  Appendix  5. 


they  constituted  the  first  line  of  Belgium's  resistance,  and 
were  designed  to  guard  the  approaches  into  Belgium  from 
the  east  and  south-east,  and  hinder  any  enemy  from  cross- 
ing the  Meuse  either  from  France  into  Germany  or  Ger- 
many into  France.  They  were  never  intended  to  be 
defended  a  entrance  and  depended  on  field  troops  for  the 
defence  of  the  intervals  between  the  forts.  At  Huy  on 
the  Meuse  between  Namur  and  Liege  there  was  an  ancient 
fort,  which  at  best  might  secure  sufficient  time  for  the 
destruction  of  the  railway  bridges  and  tunnel  there. 

The  reorganization  of  the  Belgian  Army  authorized  by 
the  Government  in  1912,  had  barely  begun  to  take  effect.  In 
accordance  with  this  a  force  of  350,000  men  was  to  be  formed : 
150,000  for  the  Field  Army,  130,000  for  the  fortress  garri- 
sons, and  70,000  for  reserve  and  auxiliary  troops.  But 
these  numbers  would  not  in  the  ordinary  course  have  been 
available  until  1926.  Actually  in  August  1914  only 
117,000  could  be  mobilized  for  the  Field  Army,  and  a 
smaller  proportion  for  the  other  categories. 

The  six  divisions  were  stationed  in  peace  so  that  at 
short  notice  they  could  quickly  confront  any  enemy,  were 
he  Germany,  France,  Great  Britain  or  Holland : — 

1st  Division  around  Ghent, 

2nd  Division,  Antwerp, 

3rd  Division  around  Liege, 

4th  Division,  Namur  and  Charleroi, 

5th  Division  around  Mons, 

6th  Division,  Brussels, 

Cavalry  Division,  Brussels. 

Thus  the  1st  Division  faced  England  ;  the  3rd,  Germany  ; 
the  4th  and  5th,  France  ;  and  they  were  intended  to  act 
as  general  advanced  guards  as  occasion  arose  and  gain 
time  for  the  movements  of  the  other  divisions  to  the 
threatened  area. 

On  the  ordinary  peace  footing  only  part  of  the  recruit 
contingent  was  with  the  colours,  so  that  in  case  of  danger 
of  war,  the  Belgian  Army  had  first  to  recall  men  on  un- 
limited leave,  in  order  to  raise  its  forces  to  "  reinforced 
peace  establishment,"  the  ordinary  strength  of  the  units  of 
the  Continental  Powers,  and  then  to  complete  the  numbers 
by  mobilizing  reservists.  Thus  not  only  was  Belgium 
normally  less  ready  than  most  nations,  but  she  was  in  the 
throes  of  reorganization,  and  could  not  put  into  the  field 
even  as  many  men  as  the  British  Regular  Army. 



(See  Plate  1) 

From  1815  to  1860,  the  Prussian  Army  had  practically 
remained  stationary  in  numbers,  with  a  peace  strength  of 
150,000  men  formed  in  eight  Army  Corps,  maintained  by 
a  yearly  contingent  of  40,000  recruits,  who  served  three 
years  with  the  colours.  One  of  the  first  acts  of  Wilhelm  I. 
on  coming  to  the  throne  in  January  1860  was,  in  opposition 
to  the  wishes  of  his  Legislature,  to  raise  the  annual  con- 
tingent to  63,000,  and  the  peace  strength  to  215,000. 
From  thence  onwards  there  was  a  steady  increase  of  the 
military  forces. 

The  war  of  1866  made  Prussia  head  of  the  North 
German  Confederation,  whilst  Hesse-Darmstadt,  Wiirt- 
temburg,  Bavaria  and  Baden  were  bound  to  place  their 
armies  at  the  disposal  of  Prussia  in  time  of  war.  In  1870, 
in  addition  to  her  original  eight  corps,  she  was  able  after 
arrangements  with  the  other  States  to  put  into  the  field 
the  Guard,  IX.,  X.  (Hanoverian),  XI.,  and  XII.  (Saxon), 
and  /.  and  II.  Bavarian  Corps,  and  eventually  the  XIII. 
(Wurttemburg)  and  XIV.  (Baden),  with  a  war-strength  of 
roughly  950,000. 

The  formation  of  the  German  Empire  in  1871  made 
expansion  still  easier,  for  by  the  Constitution  one  per  cent 
of  the  population  could  be  in  training  under  arms.  The 
peace  strengths  sanctioned  (which  did  not  include  officers 
and  one-year  volunteers)  were  : — 

1874         .          .          .     401,659 

1881         .          .          .     427,274 

1887         .          .          .     468,409 

1890        .          .          .     486,983  (20  corps) 

1893  .  .  .  479,229  and  77,864  N.C.O.'s  (and  two 

years'  service  introduced  for 
all,  except  for  horserartillery 
and  cavalry) 

1899        .          .          .     495,500  (exclusive  of  N.C.O.'s) 

1911  .          .          .     509,839  (exclusive  of  N.C.O.'s ;     gradu- 

ally reached  from  1905  on- 

1912  .          .          .     544,211  (exclusive  of  N.C.O.'s) 

1913  .          .          .      640,782  „          „         „ 

1  For  the  Order  of  Battle  and  organization  of  the  German  Forces  see 
Appendices  6  and  7. 


In  1914,  adding  36,000  officers,  110,000  N.C.O.'s,  18,000 
one-year  volunteers  and  25,000  supernumerary  recruits, 
the  total  number  with  the  colours  was  about  850,000. 

The  approximate  mobilizable  strength  was,  in  round 
figures  : — 

Trained  officers  and  men  .  .  .  4,300,000 
Partially  trained  .....  100,000 
Untrained  ......  5,500,000 


The  Army  was  organized  into  25  Active  army  corps  Plate  i. 
(50  divisions)— the  Guard,  I.  to  XXI.,  and  I.,  //.,  III. 
Bavarian  ;  and  in  each  army  corps  district  organization 
was  provided  to  form  certain  Reserve  divisions  (32 J,1 
Ersatz  divisions  (7),  Landwehr  brigades  and  regiments 
(equivalent  to  16  divisions),  from  the  supernumeraries  in 
the  depots.  There  were  also  11  cavalry  divisions. 

The  plan  on  which  this  great  force  would  be  used  on 
the  Eastern  and  Western  fronts  could  only  be  surmised. 
It  will,  so  far  as  it  is  known,  be  given  later 2  after  the 
opening  moves  of  the  campaign  have  been  developed  and 


Service  in  the  German  Army  was  divided  into : — 
service  in  the  Active  (or  Standing)  Army  (two  years, 
but  three  in  the  cavalry  and  horse  artillery) ;  service 
in  the  Reserve  (five  years,  but  four  in  the  cavalry  and 
horse  artillery) ;  service  in  the  Landwehr  (eleven  years). 
The  Landsturm  included  youths  between  17  and  20,  too 
young  for  service  in  the  Army,  and  trained  and  untrained 
men  between  39  and  45,  who  were  thus  over  the  ordinary 
military  age. 

The  original  Reserve  corps  which  took  part  in  the  August 
offensive  were  formed  mainly  of  Reserve  men  super- 
numerary to  the  requirements  of  the  Active  Army,  with 
some  Landwehr  ;  but  the  Guard  Reserve  Corps  contained 
an  active  division,  and  others,  e.g.  the  V '.,  VI.,  VII.  and 
IX.,  each  contained  an  active  brigade,  as  the  active  corps 
of  these  numbers  had  each  in  peace  time  an  extra  brigade  ; 
and  others  had  similarly  an  active  regiment.  Soon  after 

1  See  footnote,  p.  15.  2  See  p.  33. ' 


declaration  of  war,  additional  Reserve  divisions  and  corps 
were  built  up  of  volunteers  (mainly  youths  under  full 
military  age  and  men  not  yet  called  up,  etc.),  with  a  sub- 
stantial nucleus  of  about  25  per  cent  of  trained  men  of 
the  older  classes.1 

In  peace  the  Ersatz  Reserve  consisted  of  men  fit  and 
liable  for  military  service,  but  not  called  up  for  training 
because  they  were  supernumerary  to  the  annual  con- 
tingents, or  for  family  reasons,  or  on  account  of  minor 
defects,  or  because  they  were  temporarily  unfit.  It  was 
originally  intended  to  provide  men  to  fill  up  the  ranks 
of  the  Active  Army  and  form  its  depots  on  mobilization. 
In  1914,  however,  with  the  help  of  fully-trained  super- 
numerary officers,  N.C.O.'s  and  men  of  the  Reserve  and 
Landwehr,  it  was  formed  into  units,  brigades  and  divisions. 

The  Landwehr  units  were  formed  of  men  who  had  com- 
pleted seven  years  with  the  Active  Army  and  Reserve,  and 
were  under  39  years  of  age. 

As  the  war  went  on,  the  significance  of  the  various 
classifications  largely  disappeared,  and  Active,  Ersatz, 
Reserve  and  Landwehr  divisions  contained  men  of  all 

i  "  Ypres  1914,"  p.  5. 


(See  Sketch  1  ;   Map  2) 

THE  story  of  the  negotiations  and  of  the  diplomatic  corre- 
spondence and  conversations  which  took  place  after  the 
assassination  of  the  Archduke  Franz  Ferdinand  of  Austria 
and  his  Consort  at  Serajevo  on  the  28th  June  1914  and 
before  the  outbreak  of  war,  is  available  in  an  official 
narrative.1  In  this  the  efforts  of  the  British  Government 

1  "  The  Outbreak  of  the  War  1914-1918  :  A  Narrative  based  mainly 
on  British  Official  Documents,"  by  Professor  Sir  Charles  Oman.  Published 
by  H.M.  Stationery  Office,  Price  2s.  6d. 

Since  this  book  was  written,  some  further  information  with  regard  to 
the  Potsdam  Conference  of  the  5th  and  6th  July  1914  has  been  published  in 
"  Stenographische  Berichte  uber  die  offentlichen  Verhandlungen  des  Unter- 
"  suchungsausschusses  der  verfassunggebenden  deutschen  National ver- 
"  sammlung,"  the  shorthand  reports  of  the  Commission  ordered  by  the 
German  National  Assembly  to  take  evidence  on  matters  affecting  critical 
periods  of  the  war.  One  of  the  terms  of  reference  was  :  "  It  is  to  be 
"  ascertained  what  political  and  military  proceedings  took  place  in  Berlin 
"  or  Potsdam  on  the  5th  and  6th  July  1914." 

In  the  evidence  there  given,  General  von  Falkenhayn  states  that  the 
Kaiser,  on  the  afternoon  of  the  5th,  warned  him  that  the  Army  should  be 
ready  for  all  emergencies.  Admiral  Capelle  and  Admiral  Behnke,  tempor- 
ary Chief  of  the  Staff,  Admiralty,  were  similarly  warned ;  these  two 
officers  then  arranged  to  make  such  "  intellectual  preparations  "  (intel- 
lektuele  Vorbereitungen)  as  were  possible  without  arousing  suspicion. 
Admiral  Behnke  then  describes  what  was  done  : — the  mobilization  orders, 
etc.,  were  carefully  gone  through  and  got  ready,  steps  were  taken  for  the 
immediate  preparation  of  ships  and  auxiliary  vessels,  all  ships  filled  up 
with  fuel,  the  movements  of  ships  were  arranged  in  accordance  with  the 
situation,  etc. 

No  evidence  of  the  exact  military  measures  taken  was  asked  for  or 
given  at  the  Commission.  An  article  in  the  "Revue  Militaire  Generate" 
of  September  1919,  however,  gives  a  large  number  of  extracts  from  captured 
German  diaries  and  interrogations  of  prisoners  which  tend  to  shew  that 
mobilization  orders  were  issued  secretly  some  days  before  the  31st  July ;  men 
on  leave  were  recalled,  the  brigades  on  the  frontiers  intended  for  the  surprise 
of  Liege  were  brought  up  to  war  strength  by  the  recall  of  reservists,  and 
Landsturm  battalions  were  formed  on  31st  July  to  replace  active  troops  in 
guarding  the  frontier,  railways,  etc.  There  would  thus  seem  no  room  for 
doubt  that  in  a  variety  of  ways  Germany  gained  a  most  valuable  start 
of  several  days  on  her  opponents. 



27-31  July  to  bring  about  mediation  and  their  determination  to  take 
1914.  no  step  that  would  assist  to  precipitate  war  are  clearly 
explained.  It  is  therefore  unnecessary  here  to  allude  to 
diplomatic  events,  except  to  show  how  the  military  pre- 
parations were  affected  by  them. 

On  the  27th  July,  the  British  Government  judged  the 
situation  to  be  sufficiently  serious  to  warrant  them  in 
countermanding  the  dispersal,  then  in  progress,  of  the 
Home  Fleets  at  the  end  of  the  exercises  at  sea  which  had 
followed  a  test  mobilization.  At  5  P.M.  on  the  28th,  the 
First  Fleet  was  ordered  to  proceed  to  its  preliminary  war 
station  in  the  North ;  *  on  the  29th,  the  Government 
further,  at  2  P.M.,  ordered  the  precautionary  measures 
arranged  by  the  General  Staff  to  meet  an  immediate 
prospect  of  war,  to  be  put  in  force.  These  affected  the 
Regular  troops  only,  and  included  the  recall  of  officers 
and  men  on  leave  and  furlough,  and  the  manning  of  the 
coast  defences. 

The  Belgian  Government  decided  to  place  the  Army 
upon  its  "  reinforced  peace  footing." 2 

On  the  same  day,  the  29th,  the  British  Ambassador 
at  Berlin  was  asked  by  the  Chancellor  to  give  assurance 
of  England's  neutrality  if  Russia  should  attack  Austria 
and  an  European  conflagration  ensued.  To  this  signifi- 
cant enquiry  Sir  Edward  Grey,  the  Minister  for  Foreign 
Affairs,  responded  on  the  30th  by  a  refusal  to  entertain 
the  proposal.  Russia  on  that  day  issued  orders  for  the 
mobilization  of  her  four  Southern  Armies;  and  Germany 
threatened  that  she  would  mobilize  unless  Russia  ceased. 
News  was  also  received  of  the  declaration  of  war  by 
Austria-Hungary  against  Serbia  and  of  the  bombardment 
of  Belgrade. 

On  the  31st  July,  Austria  and  Russia  decreed  the  full 
mobilization  of  their  forces,  whereupon  Germany  made 
a  formal  proclamation  of  "  imminent  danger  of  war " 
(drohende  Kriegsgefahr),  which  meant  practically  the  in- 
troduction of  Martial  Law  and  the  suspension  of  the  usual 
civil  rights,  and  permitted  the  calling  to  the  colours  of  six 
classes  of  the  Reserve ;  at  the  same  time  she  presented  an 
ultimatum  to  the  effect  that,  unless  Russia  ceased  mobiliza- 
tion within  twelve  hours,  she  herself  would  mobilize  upon 
both  frontiers.  Significantly  enough,  Turkey  also  ordered 

1  The  naval  precautions  taken  will  be  found  fully  described  in  "  The 
History  of  the  War  :  Naval  Operations,"  vol.  i.,  by  Sir  Julian  Corbett. 

2  See  p.  19. 


mobilization  upon  this  day.1  Sir  Edward  Grey,  mean- 1  Aug. 
while,  sent  an  identic  request  to  Germany  and  France 
to  enquire  whether  they  would  respect  Belgian  neutrality. 
On  the  31st  July  France  answered  with  an  unequivocal 
affirmative.  Germany,  however,  sent  only  an  evasive 
reply ;  and  on  the  1st  August  both  France  and  Germany 
ordered  general  mobilization. 

The  beginning  of  mobilization  in  France  raised  a  serious 
question  for  Great  Britain.  There  was,  it  is  true,  no 
definite  agreement  nor  understanding  that  she  should  send 
assistance  to  France,  and  the  British  Government  was  free 
to  decide,  untrammelled,  for  peace  or  war.  But  a  scheme 
had  been  elaborated,  in  the  event  of  certain  contingencies, 
between  the  General  Staffs  of  the  two  countries  ;  and  an 
essential  point  in  this  scheme  was  that  the  first  movement 
of  the  British  advanced  parties,  stores  and  so  forth,  should 
begin  on  the  first  day  of  mobilization.  Assuming  this  coin- 
cidence of  movement  and  mobilization,  it  was  reckoned 
that  six  divisions — or  four,  if  six  could  not  be  spared — 
one  cavalry  division  and  one  cavalry  brigade  could  be 
transported  from  Great  Britain  to  concentration  areas 
between  Avesnes  and  Le  Cateau,  and  would  be  ready  to 
advance  from  them  on  the  sixteenth  day  after  the  order  for 
mobilization  had  been  issued. 

That  the  British  mobilization,  if  it  should  take  place  at 
all,  would  be  later  than  the  French  was  now  obvious.  The 
British  General  Staff  therefore  suggested  that  measures 
might  be  taken  to  ensure  that,  if  mobilization  should  come 
after  all,  movement  to  France  of  the  advanced  parties, 
which  could  be  warned  at  once,  should  be  simultaneous 
with  the  issue  of  the  order  for  it.  Another  important 
measure  was  the  guarding  of  the  lines  of  railway  to  the 
ports  of  embarkation.  This  duty  had  been  assigned  to 
certain  units  of  the  Territorial  Force  ;  but  these  were 
about  to  proceed  to  camp  for  their  annual  training  ;  and, 
unless  the  orders  for  that  training  were  cancelled,  there 
might  be  delay  in  the  despatch  of  the  Expeditionary  Force. 
The  Government  considered,  however,  that  the  counter- 
manding of  the  orders  for  Territorial  training  would  be 
construed  as  not  less  menacing  than  the  order  for  mobiliza- 
tion itself ;  and  they  shrank  from  any  measure  which  might 
seem  to  extinguish  the  last  hope  of  peace. 

At  12  noon  on  the  1st  August,  the  German  ultimatum 
to  Russia  expired,  and  a  general  conflagration  became  in- 

1  The  "  1st  day  of  mobilization"  was  the  3rd  August.   • 


2  Aug.  evitable.1  The  Cabinet  at  2  P.M.  on  the  2nd  cancelled  the 
1914.  orders  for  Territorial  training  and  at  6  P.M.  those  for  the 
manoeuvres  of  the  Army,  but  still  issued  no  orders  for 
mobilization.  The  Royal  Navy  was  quite  ready  for  active 
service  ;  and  the  French  Ambassador  was  assured  that, 
if  the  German  Fleet  should  enter  the  North  Sea  or  the 
Channel  with  hostile  designs  against  France,  the  British 
Fleet  would  give  France  its  protection.  Beyond  this  con- 
ditional promise  of  naval  intervention  the  Cabinet  would 
not  go  without  consulting  Parliament.  Parliament  was 
consulted  on  the  following  day,  the  3rd  August ;  but  in 
the  meanwhile  a  most  momentous  event  had  occurred. 
Sketch  1.  At  seven  o'clock  in  the  evening  of  the  2nd  the  German 
Map  2.  Minister  at  Brussels  had  presented  a  Note  to  the  Belgian 
Government,  requesting  a  reply  within  twelve  hours.  This 
Note  had  been  drawn  up  by  the  Great  General  Staff  as  early 
as  26th  July,  and  despatched  under  seal  to  the  German 
Minister  at  Brussels  on  the  29th,  with  orders  that  it  was 
not  to  be  opened  pending  further  instructions.  It  set  forth 
that  the  German  Government  had  certain  intelligence  of  the 
intention  of  the  French  forces  to  march  on  the  Meuse  by 
Givet  and  Namur,  and,  in  view  of  this  attack,  requested 
free  and  unresisted  ingress  for  the  German  troops  into 
Belgian  territory.  The  Belgian  Government  replied  that 
they  would  repel  any  attempt  either  of  France  or  Germany 
upon  Belgium ;  and  meanwhile  declined  the  help  of  France 
against  any  German  encroachment  until  they  should  have 
made  formal  appeal  to  the  Powers,  Prussia  among  them, 
that  had  guaranteed  Belgian  neutrality.  Faithful  to 
the  obligations  imposed  upon  her  by  treaty,  Belgium  had 
already  on  the  1st  August  ordered  her  forces  to  be  mobilized, 
and  was  preparing  to  resist  violation  of  her  territory  from 
any  quarter  whatsoever. 

Other  important  events  on  the  2nd  August  were  that 
German  troops  crossed  the  Polish  frontier,  broke  also  into 
France  at  four  different  points,  and  entered  the  territory 
of  Luxembourg.2 

Sir  Edward  Grey  had  no  accurate  information  as  to  the 

1  The  German  declaration  of  war  was  delivered  by  the  Ambassador  at 
Petrograd,  Count  Pourtales,  at  7  P.M.  on  the  1st  August ;    he  at  the  same 
time  demanded  his  passports  (Kautsky's  "Die  deutsche  Dokumente  zum 
Kriegsausbruch,"  vol.  iii.  pp.  50  and  83,  which  is  confirmed  by  the  Russian 
Orange  Book). 

2  By  the  treaty  of  1867  Prussia  guaranteed  the  perpetual  neutrality  of 
Luxembourg  ;  by  the  Convention  of  1902  Germany  re-insured  the  neutrality 
and  stipulated  that  the  railways  in  the  Grand  Duchy  which  she  exploited 
should  not  be  used  for  the  transport  of  her  troops. 


exact  nature  of  the  German  ultimatum  to  Belgium  when  he  3  Aug. 
met  the  House  of  Commons  on  the  3rd  August.  He  was  1914- 
aware,  however,  of  the  crude  fact  that  an  ultimatum  had 
been  tendered,  and,  whilst  coming  down  to  the  House,  he 
had  been  informed  that  King  Albert  had  telegraphed  to 
King  George  invoking  England's  diplomatic  intervention 
to  safeguard  the  integrity  of  Belgium.  He  presented,  in 
due  order,  the  course  of  action  he  had  pursued  and  the 
motives  dictating  it.  The  House  of  Commons,  as  it 
followed  him,  applauded  his  decision  not  to  commit  the 
country  to  armed  intervention  on  account  of  the  Serbian 
quarrel,  but  approved  the  conditional  promise  of  the  Fleet's 
aid  to  France,  and  grew  enthusiastic  when  it  heard  that 
England  would  be  true  to  her  engagements  to  uphold  the 
integrity  of  Belgium. 

No  resolution  followed  upon  the  speech  of  the  Secretary 
of  State  for  Foreign  Affairs.  After  the  adjournment  which 
followed  it,  towards  7  P.M.,  he  was  able  to  read  to  the 
House  full  information,  received  from  the  Belgian  Legation, 
of  the  German  Note  that  had  been  presented  in  Brussels. 
It  left  no  doubt  that  a  German  attack  was  about  to  take 
place,  if  indeed  it  had  not  begun. 

The  immediate  measures  taken  were  to  announce  that 
a  moratorium  would  be  proclaimed  and  that  the  Govern- 
ment would  undertake  the  responsibility  of  maritime 
insurance.  The  Territorial  Force  was  embodied  and  the 
Naval  Reserves  were  called  out.  It  was  now  clear  that  our 
mobilization  must  take  place  at  least  three  days  later  than 
the  French,  and  that  even  so  movement  could  not  be 
simultaneous  with  it.  The  Government,  however,  reckoned 
that  by  this  delay  they  had  gained  more  than  they  had  lost 
by  securing  the  unanimity,  or  approximate  unanimity,  of 
the  nation  and  the  benevolence  of  neutrals. 

On  the  3rd  August,  at  6.45  P.M.,  Germany  declared  war 
on  France,  making  alleged  violation  of  her  frontier  by 
patrols  and  of  her  territory  by  aviators  a  pretext.1  Italy, 
though  a  member  of  the  Triple  Alliance,  declared  that 
she  would  maintain  her  neutrality  in  the  impending 

Meanwhile  Germany,  being  unhampered  by  moral  con- 
siderations, completed  her  arrangements  for  the  invasion 
of  Belgium.  On  the  morning  of  the  4th  August,  she 
declared  war  on  Belgium,  and  two  of  her  cavalry  divisions 

1  These  allegations  have  since  been  admitted  to  have  been  false.     See 
M.  Poincare's  "  The  Origins  of  the  War,"  pp.  3  and  4. 


4-6  Aug.  passed  the  frontier  ;    and  in  the  afternoon  the  heads  of 
1914.    infantry  columns  also  entered  Belgium. 

Early  in  the  afternoon  of  the  4th  August  Sir  Edward 
Grey  telegraphed  to  the  British  Ambassador  at  Berlin 
instructing  him  to  ask  for  his  passports  if  no  satis- 
factory answer  were  given  regarding  the  observation  of 
Belgium's  neutrality  by  12  midnight  (11  P.M.  Greenwich 
mean  time).  At  4'  P.M.  the  British  Government  gave 
orders  for  the  mobilization  of  the  Army.  At  12.15  A.M. 
on  the  morning  of  the  5th  August,  the  Foreign  Office  issued 
the  following  statement : 

44  Owing  to  the  summary  rejection  by  the  German  Govern- 
"  ment  of  the  request  made  by  His  Majesty's  Government  for 
"  assurances  that  the  neutrality  of  Belgium  will  be  respected, 
"  His  Majesty's  Ambassador  at  Berlin  has  received  his  passports 
"  and  His  Majesty's  Government  have  declared  to  the  German 
"  Government  that  a  state  of  war  exists  between  Great  Britain 
"  and  Germany  as  from  11  P.M.  on  the  4th  August." 

On  the  5th  and  6th  August,  two  meetings,  attended 
by  the  principal  Ministers,  including  Lord  Kitchener,  who 
became  Secretary  of  State  for  War  on  the  6th,  and  by  the 
leading  members  of  the  Staffs  of  the  Navy  and  Army  of 
Britain,  were  assembled  to  consider  the  conduct  of  the  war. 
The  exact  state  of  affairs  at  the  moment  was  that  Great 
Britain,  France  and  Russia  were  at  war  with  Germany ; 
that  Belgium  had  been  wantonly  attacked  but  was  making 
a  better  defence  than  had  been  expected  ;  that  Austria  was 
at  war  with  Serbia  only  ;  and  that  Italy  was  neutral.  The 
main  military  questions  to  be  decided  were  the  employment 
and  disposition  of  the  Expeditionary  Force,  questions 
which  were  complicated  by  the  delay  in  mobilization.  It 
was  determined  first  that  the  Force,  less  the  4th  and  6th 
Divisions,  should  embark  for  the  continent.  In  order  to 
reduce  the  chance  of  a  German  landing  in  force  interfering 
with  this  move,  the  Secretary  of  State  decided  that  the  18th 
Infantry  Brigade  of  the  6th  Division,  then  at  Lichfield, 
should  move  to  Edinburgh,  and  two  infantry  brigades  of 
the  4th  Division  should  proceed  to  Cromer  and  York,  in 
each  case  accompanied  by  some  artillery.  The  llth 
Infantry  Brigade  of  the  4th  Division  was  already  at 
Colchester.  Five  cyclist  battalions  and  eventually  the 
Yeomanry  Mounted  Division  were  also  sent  to  the  East 
coast.  The  rest  of  the  6th  Division  was  to  remain  in 

Then  came  the   final  decision   as   to  the  destination 


of  the  Expeditionary  Force.  In  view  of  the  attack  on  6  Aug. 
Belgium,  had  the  British  contingent  been  of  a  size  adequate  1914< 
for  independent  operations  of  a  substantial  character, 
there  would  have  been  much  to  be  said  in  favour  of  making 
Antwerp  the  base  of  its  military  operations  ;  but  as  it 
was  so  small,  and  as  Antwerp,  owing  to  part  of  the  Schelde 
being  Dutch  territorial  waters,  would  have  to  be  reached 
overland  after  disembarkation  at  Ostend  and  other  ports, 
and  operations  in  the  north  might  involve  separation 
from  the  French,  the  suggestion  was  not  followed.  There 
remained  the  area,  already  considered  with  the  French, 
namely,  that  around  Le  Cateau  and  Avesnes.  Certain 
military  opinion,  however,  was  against  a  concentration 
of  the  British  forces  in  any  area  in  advance  of  Amiens. 
Finally,  after  discussion  of  the  expansion  of  the  army, 
it  was  agreed  to  leave  the  decision  with  our  Allies,  the 
French ; 1  and  the  council  broke  up  after  passing  three 
resolutions,  namely — First,  to  embark  ultimately  five, 
but  for  the  present  only  four  of  the  divisions  and  the 
Cavalry  Division  of  the  Expeditionary  Force,  to  commence 
on  the  9th  ;  Secondly,  to  bring  home  the  Imperial  troops 
from  South  Africa ;  Thirdly,  to  transport  two  Indian 
divisions  to  Egypt,  but  no  further,  and  to  urge  the 
Government  of  India  to  send  a  division  to  capture  Dar  es 
Salaam  in  German  East  Africa. 

To  Field  -  Marshal  Sir  John  French,  who  had  been 
selected  to  command  the  Expeditionary  Force,  special 
instructions  as  to  his  co-operation  with  the  French  were 
issued  by  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War.2 

Lieut. -General  Sir  Douglas  Haig  was  appointed  to  com- 
mand the  I.  Corps ;  Lieut.-General  Sir  James  Grierson,  the 
II.  Corps  ;  Lieut.-General  W.  P.  Pulteney,  the  III.  Corps ; 
and  Major-General  E.  Allenby,  the  Cavalry  Division.  The 
six  divisions  were  to  be  commanded  by  Major-Generals 
S.  H.  Lomax,  C.  C.  Munro,  H.  I.  W.  Hamilton,  T.  D'O. 
Snow,  Sir  C.  Fergusson  and  J.  L.  Keir. 

1  According  to  Marechal  Joffre's  official  report  to  a  Parliamentary 
Commission    d'Enquete  :     "  The    directions    for    concentration    did    not 

mention  the  place  eventually  reserved  for  the  British  Army.  .  .  .  Our 
military  arrangements  with  England  had  in  fact  a  character  which  was 
both  secret  and  contingent  (tventuel),  and  made  it  improper  to  mention 
them  in  such  a  document.  ...  In  the  event  of  its  arrival,  its  employment 
was  looked  for  at  the  place  which  should  be  logically  reserved  for  it,  on  the 
left  of  the  line  of  the  French  Armies,  which  it  would  thus  prolong."  "  La 

Preparation  de  la  Guerre  et  la  conduite  des  operations."    Par  Le  Marechal 

Joffre,  p.  21. 

2  Appendix  8. 



(See  Sketch  1  ;   Maps  1  &  2) 

4  Aug.  At  4  P.M.  on  the  4th  August,  as  already  stated,  the  order 
1914.  for  mobilization  of  the  Expeditionary  and  Territorial  Forces 
was  issued  by  the  British  Government.  As  a  matter  of 
fact,  mobilization  occurred  at  an  extremely  awkward 
moment,  for  the  3rd  August  had  been  Bank  Holiday  and, 
as  usually  is  the  case  in  the  middle  of  summer,  Territorial 
units  were  in  the  act  of  moving  to  various  camps  for  their 
annual  training  when  the  orders  cancelling  it  arrived. 
Hence  arose  the  question  whether  the  existing  time-tables 
for  concentration  should  stand,  or  whether  the  movements 
by  railway  should  be  postponed.  The  Cabinet  decided  for 
a  short  postponement,  and  gave  orders,  as  already  men- 
tioned, that  the  embarkation  of  the  Expeditionary  Force 
should  not  begin  until  the  9th,  and  for  the  present  to 
hold  back  the  4th  and  6th  Divisions.  Meantime  the 
mobilization  of  the  various  units  proceeded  with  the 
smoothness  which  had  been  anticipated.  In  all  essentials 
everything  went  "  according  to  plan "  ;  and  even  the 
task  of  collecting  120,000  horses  was  accomplished  within 
twelve  days.  Embarkation  was  conducted  upon  the 
principle  that  every  train-load  should  be  a  complete  unit 
or  subdivision  of  a  unit,  so  that  upon  arrival  in  France 
after  its  passage,  it  should  be  self-contained,  possessing 
transport  enough  to  go  straight  into  a  rest-camp  or  into 
another  train.  The  ports  of  embarkation  were  as  follows  : 

Great  Britain 

Southampton — for  all  troops. 
Avonmouth — motor  transport  and  petrol. 
Newhaven — stores  and  supplies. 
Liverpool — frozen  meat  and  motor  transport. 
Glasgow — a  few  details. 


Cork     If  or  the  5th  and  6th  Divisions. 

The  ships  were  also  divided  into  classes  :   (1)  personnel 


ships  ;    (2)  horse  and  vehicle  ships  ;    (3)  motor  transport  4  Aug. 
ships  ;  (4)  store  ships.  1914. 

The  ports  of  disembarkation  in  France  were :  Havre,  sketch  i. 
Rouen  and  Boulogne.  Map  2. 

In  the  five  days  of  greatest  activity  1,800  special  trains 
were  run  in  Great  Britain  and  Ireland  ;  on  the  busiest  day 
of  all,  eighty  trains,  containing  the  equivalent  of  a  division, 
were  run  into  Southampton  Docks  ;  the  daily  average  of 
ships  despatched  was  thirteen,  with  an  average  daily  tonnage 
of  about  52,000  tons  gross.  At  first  the  transports  were 
despatched  singly  as  they  were  ready,  both  by  day  and  by 
night,  for,  as  yet,  there  was  no  menace  by  German  sub- 
marines, and  the  measures  taken  by  the  Royal  Navy 
gave  absolute  security.1  Everything  went  regularly  and 
smoothly,  and  the  official  programme  was  carried  out  to 
the  letter ;  but  there  was  little  margin  to  spare. 


Meanwhile  the  situation  in  Belgium  and  on  the  French 
frontier  was  developing  rapidly.  When  during  the  night 
of  the  3rd/4th  August,  it  became  clear  that  the  Germans 
intended  to  advance  through  Belgium,  with  or  without 
permission,  the  Belgian  Staff  at  once  took  the  measures 
necessary  for  the  defence  of  their  country's  neutrality 
against  Germany.  The  3rd  Division,  supported  by  Map  i. 
the  fortifications  of  Liege,  was  to  check  the  German 
advance  ;  and,  under  cover  of  the  3rd  Division,  the  1st, 
2nd,  5th,  and  6th  Divisions  were  to  move  to  the  line 
of  the  river  Gette,  the  Cavalry  Division  and  detach- 
ments from  Li6ge  and  Namur  screening  the  movement. 
This  position  covered  a  considerable  part  of  Belgium, 
Brussels  and  the  communications  with  Antwerp.  The 
concentration  began  on  the  4th  August,  and  by  the 
morning  of  the  6th  the  Belgian  Army  was  in  position 
two  marches  west  of  Liege,  in  the  area  Tirlemont 
(1st  Division),  Perwez  (5th  Division),  Louvain  (2nd 
Division),  and  Wavre  (6th  Division). 

On  the  morning  of  the  4th,  when  German  cavalry 
crossed  the  Belgian  frontier  and  moved  upon  Vise,  north 
of  Liege,  it  found  the  bridge  over  the  Meuse  broken,  and 
the  western  bank  held  by  Belgian  troops.  Two  regiments 

1  See  "  Naval  Operations,"  i.  p.  72  et  seq.,  and  also  footnote  3,  p. 
11  above. 


5  Aug.  were  then  pushed  northward  to  Lixhe  (3  miles  north  of 
1914.  Vise),  where  they  crossed  the  river  by  a  ford.  The 
Belgians,  finding  their  left  threatened,  thereupon  fell  back 
on  Liege.  By  evening  the  heads  of  six  small  German 
columns  of  all  arms  which  had  crossed  the  frontier  were 
nearly  two  miles  into  Belgium.  Further  concentrations 
were  also  reported  to  the  south ;  and  it  became  evident 
that  a  very  large  army  threatened  invasion  along  the  lines 
of  advance  guarded  by  the  fortress  of  Liege  and  by  the 
3rd  Division. 

(See  Sketches  1  &  2  ;   Maps  1,  2,  &  5) 

On  the  5th  August,  the  Germans,  having  bridged  the 
Meuse  at  Lixhe,  pushed  forward  patrols  to  Tongres  (about 
ten  miles  N.N.W.  of  Liege) ;  and  the  commander-in-chief  of 
the  invading  troops,  General  von  Emmich,  demanded  free 
passage  through  Liege.  This  being  at  once  refused,  he 
attempted  to  seize  the  place  by  a  coup  de  main.  His  troops 
consisted  of  six  infantry  brigades  (said  to  be  at  peace 
strength)  provided  by  the  III.,  IV.,  VI.,  X.,  and  XI. 
Corps,  each  with  a  squadron  of  cavalry,  a  battery  of 
artillery,  a  battalion  of  J tiger  (Rifles),  and  cyclists  attached 
to  it.  Two  of  the  six  batteries  had  field  guns,  and  the  other 
four,  field  howitzers.  Besides  this  force,  General  von 
Emmich  had  at  his  disposal  two  heavy  mortar  batteries, 
and  General  von  der  Marwitz's  Cavalry  Corps,  comprising 
the  2nd,  4th,  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions.1 

After  an  unsuccessful  attempt  to  kidnap  the  Com- 
mandant of  Liege,  General  von  Emmich  gave  orders  for  a 
night  attack.  His  general  plan  was  to  make  a  demonstra- 
tion against  the  forts  with  a  few  companies,  and  to  send 
the  six  brigades  through  the  intervals  between  them 
to  secure  the  town  and  citadel,  and  then  to  ;fall  upon 
the  forts  from  the  rear.  This  attack  was  delivered  soon 
after  nightfall  in  five  columns  ;  two  from  the  north  and 
north-east ;  one,  the  central  column,  from  the  east ;  and 
two  from  the  south.  The  first  two  columns,  for  the  most 
part,  lost  their  way,  and  fell  back  after  suffering  heavy 
losses,  though  one  battalion  penetrated  into  Liege  and  was 
there  captured.  Of  the  two  southern  columns,  one  halted, 
having  casualties  so  severe  as  to  forbid  further  progress, 
and  the  other  was  seized  with  panic,  the  men  firing  upon 

1  "  Luttich-Namur." 

SKETCH   2. 



each  other.  The  central  column  met  with  serious  resist-  5-17  Aug. 
ance,  the  brigadier  and  the  commander  of  the  leading  1914- 
regiment  being  killed.  It  was  on  the  point  of  falling  back 
when  Major-General  Ludendorff,  who,  as  Deputy  Chief  of 
the  General  Staff  of  the  Second  Army,  was  with  General 
von  Emmich  watching  the  operations,  came  up  and,  taking 
command,  pushed  on.  He  was  specially  interested,  for  he 
had  planned  these  very  operations  in  peace  when  Chief  of 
the  Operations  Section  of  the  Great  General  Staff.  After 
giving  his  men  a  rest,  he  renewed  the  attack  in  the  forenoon 
of  the  6th,  and  advanced  until  his  leading  troops  were 
within  a  mile  of  Liege.  Though  unsupported  by  the  other 
columns,  he  decided  to  make  a  dash  for  the  citadel,  and  on 
advancing  found  practically  no  opposition.  The  Belgian 
Staff,  anticipating  that  the  3rd  Division  might  be  sur- 
rounded, had  withdrawn  it  to  the  Gette  ;  so  the  Germans 
found  themselves  in  possession  of  the  town  of  Liege. 

The  true  siege  of  the  fortress  then  began.  Von  der 
Marwitz's  Cavalry  Corps  worked  round  to  the  western  side 
of  the  defences,  and  the  German  artillery  shelled  the  forts. 
On  the  12th,  42-cm.  howitzers  were  brought  up,  and  the 
last  of  the  forts  fell  at  8.30  A.M.  on  the  16th.  General  Leman, 
the  gallant  commandant,  was  taken  unconscious  from 
under  a  heap  of  wreckage  and  made  prisoner.  He  had 
nobly  done  his  duty,  and  by  delaying  the  German  advance 
had  rendered  transcendent  service  to  the  cause  of  Belgium's 

Meanwhile,  on  the  10th,  German  cavalry  and  Jager  2 

1  The  time  gained  to  the  Allies  would  appear  to  have  been  about  four  or 
five  days.  According  to  von  Kluck  (pp.  10-19),  his  three  leading  corps 
were  on  the  line  Kermpt — Stevort — Gorssum,  forty  miles  (say  three 
marches)  west  of  Aix  La  Chapelle,  on  the  night  of  the  17th.  They  had 
begun  to  arrive  in  the  concentration  area  north-east  of  Aix  on  the  7th. 
Had  Liege  offered  no  opposition  and  had  they  at  once  marched  off  into 
Belgium,  there  seems  no  reason  why  the  //.,  ///.  and  IV.  Corps  should 
not  have  reached  the  above  line  on  the  10th,  and  completed  concentration 
there  on  the  12th  or  13th — four  or  five  days  earlier  than  was  the  case. 
The  six  composite  brigades  and  cavalry  corps  which  attacked  Liege  were 
available  to  cover  the  concentration.  Even  on  the  10th  August  the  German 
Supreme  Command  hoped  to  commence  the  advance  on  the  13th,  five 
days  earlier  than  was  possible  (v.  Billow,  pp.  11, 12).  According  to  post-war 
German  publications  however,  e.g.  "  Graf  Schlieffen  und  der  Weltkrieg  " 
by  Foerster,  the  German  time-table  made  the  armies  reach  the  line  Thion- 
ville — Sedan — Mons,  on  the  22nd  day  of  mobilization  (23rd  August),  Sketch  1. 
and  they  were  actually  slightly  ahead  of  it.  Belgian  opinion  is  that 
at  least  four  days  were  gained  ("  Bulletin  Beige  des  Sciences  Militaires," 
Sept.  1921). 

.  a  It  must  always  be  borne  in  mind  that  a  German  cavalry  division 
is  a  mixed  force  of  all  arms,  with  two  or  more  Jager  (Rifle)  battalions 
included.  (See  Plate  1.) 

VOL.  I  D 


12-20  Aug.  appeared  before  the  line  of  the  Gette,  and  gradually  ex- 
1914>      tended  north  as  far  as  Hasselt  (18  miles  north-east  of 

Sketches    Tirlemont)  and  Diest  (12  miles  north  of  Tirlemont).     On 
&  2-        the  12th  six  German  cavalry  regiments,  with  three  horse- 
,2,  batterjes  an(j  two  J tiger  battalions  attacked  the  line  of  the 
Gette  at  Haelen,  a  little  to  the  south-east  of  Diest,  and 
made  some  progress,  but  were  ultimately  driven  back  by 
the   Belgians,   with   appreciable   loss,  after   ten   hours   of 
sharp  fighting. 

German  troops,  however,  continued  to  pour  into  Bel- 
gium, and  by  the  17th  the  space  between  the  Meuse,  the 
Demer  and  the  Gette  was  occupied  by  them  in  strength, 
in  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  Belgian  Army,  assisted  by  the 
Garde  Civique,  had  systematically  obstructed  the  roads 
and  destroyed  the  bridges.  The  right  flank  of  the  line  of 
the  Gette  was  already  threatened,  and  columns  to  support 
the  turning  movement  were  passing  the  Meuse  at  Huy, 
where  the  bridge,  blown  up  by  the  Belgians,  had  been  re- 
paired. On  the  18th,  the  Germans  again  attacked  and 
carried  Haelen,  and  also  entered  Tirlemont.  They  then 
fell  upon  the  front  and  left  flank  of  the  Belgian  1st  Division, 
and  only  by  hard  fighting  were  held  at  bay.  The  Gette 
position  was  now  evidently  in  imminent  danger.  It  was 
certain  that  the  German  //.,  IV.  and  IX.  Corps,  covered 
by  the  £nd  and  4th  Cavalry  Divisions  were  opposite  the 
Belgian  left  between  Diest  and  Tirlemont ;  whilst  the 
Guard,  X.  and  VII.  Corps  were  marching  against  the 
Belgian  right  on  a  front  from  Jodoigne  (7  miles  S.S.W. 
of  Tirlemont)  to  Namur.  It  was  also  known  that  the 
Active  corps  were  being  followed  by  Reserve  formations, 
namely,  in  the  First  Army,  by  the  ///.,  IV.  and  IX. 
Reserve  Corps  ;  in  the  Second  Army  by  the  Guard,  VII. 
and  X.  Reserve  Corps  ;  and  in  the  Third  Army  by  the 
XII.  Reserve  Corps.  The  French  and  the  British,  as  will  be 
seen,  were  neither  of  them  yet  at  hand  to  give  assistance ; 
and  it  was  hopeless  for  the  Belgians  to  think  of  contending 
against  odds  of  four  or  five  to  one.  Accordingly,  on  the 
evening  of  the  18th,  the  five  Belgian  divisions  were  skilfully 
drawn  off  from  the  Gette  north-westward  to  Antwerp,  and 
on  the  20th  entered  the  lines  of  that  fortress  without 
being  seriously  molested.  There,  on  the  flank  of  the  Ger- 
mans if  they  advanced  westward,  and  in  their  rear  if  they 
should  turn  southward,  the  Belgian  Army  remained — an 
effective  menace  to  the  enemy.1 

1  According  to  von  Hausen,  the  commander  of  the  Third  Army  ("  Maine- 

NAMUR  35 

(Map  5) 

Further  to  the  south,  about  Namur,  where  the  4th  5-23  Aug. 
Belgian  Division  was  stationed,  German  cavalry  patrols  1914- 
were  in  touch  with  the  Belgian  cavalry  to  the  north  of  the 
fortress  on  the  5th  August,  and  to  the  south-east  of  it  on 
the  7th.  But  it  was  not  until  nearly  a  fortnight  later  that 
the  main  bodies  of  the  enemy  approached ;  and  meanwhile, 
on  the  19th,  the  garrison  had  been  joined  by  the  8th  Belgian 
Infantry  Brigade  which,  finding  itself  completely  isolated 
at  Huy,  had  blown  up  the  bridge  over  the  Meuse  there  and 
fallen  back  on  Namur.  On  that  day  the  Guard  Reserve 
Corps  of  the  German  Second  Army  appeared  on  the  north 
of  the  fortress,  and  the  XI.  Corps,  consisting  of  the  22nd 
and  38th  Divisions,  of  the  Third  Army,  on  the  south-east, 
the  whole  under  the  command  of  General  von  Gallwitz. 
With  these  troops  was  a  large  proportion  of  heavy  artillery, 
including  four  batteries  of  Austrian  30-5 -cm.  mortars  and 
one  of  Krupp's  42-cm.  howitzers. 

On  the  20th  August,  the  Germans  drove  in  the  Belgian 
outposts,  and  on  the  21st  opened  fire  on  the  eastern  and 
south-eastern  forts.  The  Belgian  commandant  was  power- 
less either  to  keep  these  monster  howitzers  at  a  distance  or 
to  silence  them  by  counter-batteries.  Before  evening  two  of 
the  principal  forts  had  been  very  seriously  damaged  ;  and 
within  another  twenty-four  hours  both  were  practically 
destroyed.  Two  Belgian  counter-attacks  on  the  22nd  August 
failed  ;  and  by  the  evening  of  the  23rd  the  northern  and 
eastern  fronts  had  been  laid  bare,  and  five  out  of  the  whole 
circle  of  nine  forts  were  in  ruins.  At  midnight  the  garrison 
withdrew  south-westward  into  France,  whence  it  later 
rejoined  the  main  Belgian  Army  at  Antwerp. 

Thus  for  eighteen  days  the  Belgians  had  faced  the 
German  invasion,  delaying  the  hostile  advance  during  a 

schlacht,"  p.  244,  footnote),  the  HI.  Reserve  Corps  and  IX.  Reserve  Corps 
were  originally  detailed  to  push  forward  to  the  coast  "  direction  Calais," 
but  this  order  was  cancelled  when  the  Belgian  Army  went  into  Antwerp, 
and  both  corps  were  sent  to  watch  it.  Later,  in  early  September,  the 
XV.  Corps  was  detained  near  Brussels  on  account  of  a  sortie  being  expected 
from  Antwerp.  These  three  corps  were  absent  from  the  battle  of  the 
Marne,  though  the  IX.  Reserve  and  XV.  Corps  reached  the  Aisne  in  time 
to  oppose  the  Allied  crossing.  There  were  further  employed  at  the  siege : 
the  4th  Ersatz  Division  (sent  from  the  Sixth  Army),  the  1st  Ersatz  Reserve 
Division,  a  Matrosen  Division,  the  26th  and  S7th  Landwehr  Brigades, 
besides  heavy  artillery  and  engineers. 


2-12  Aug.  most  critical  period,  and  gaining  time  which  was  of  price- 
1914.  iess  vajue  t0  the  Allies.  In  addition  to  this  great  strategic 
advantage,  the  fact  that  the  first  German  operations 
against  fortresses,  conducted  under  the  conditions  obtain- 
ing in  modern  warfare,  were  so  rapidly  successful  gave 
warning  to  the  French  to  readjust  their  conceptions  of  the 
defensive  value  of  their  fortified  front,  and  reorganize  it  on 
lines  calculated  to  counter  the  effect  of  bombardment  by 
heavy  howitzers. 

(See  Maps  1,  2,  &  5) 

On  the  2nd  August,  the  day  of  the  presentation  to 
Belgium  of  the  German  ultimatum,  the  French  Commander- 
in- Chief  decided  to  use  "the  alternative  concentration 
areas "  for  the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies,  so  as  to  inter- 
polate the  former  in  the  general  line,  and  extend  the  left 
wing  further  towards  the  north. 

Map  i.  On  the  3rd,  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  began 
to  move  forward  east  of  Mezieres,  and  on  the  5th  it 
was  ordered,  with  the  consent  of  King  Albert,  to  enter 
Belgium  to  ascertain  the  direction  of  advance  of  the  enemy 
and  to  delay  his  columns.  General  Sordet  crossed  the 
frontier  on  the  6th  and  moved  first  towards  Neufchateau 
(36  miles  east  of  Mezieres).  Then,  striking  north,  he 
eventually  arrived  within  nine  miles  of  Liege  ;  but,  finding 
that  the  Belgian  field  troops  had  been  withdrawn  from  the 
area  of  the  fortress,  he  retired  in  the  direction  of  the  Meuse. 
Valuable  information  was  obtained  by  him  as  to  the 
enemy's  movements  from  an  officer  who  was  captured  on 
the  9th,  but  otherwise  the  intelligence  gained  in  the 
strategic  reconnaissance  was  negative,  and  it  did  not 
achieve  its  secondary  object  of  delaying  the  enemy's 
advance ;  for,  owing  to  the  resistance  of  Liege,  no  important 
columns  of  German  troops  had  at  the  time  entered  the 
area  explored. 

To  assist  the  Belgian  Army  and  support  the  cavalry, 
the  I.  Corps  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  was  sent  forward  on 
the  12th  August  from  Mezieres  northwards  "  to  oppose  any 

1  Taken  mainly  from  General  Joffre's  statement  to  the  Parliamentary 
Commission  d'Enquete ;  Defense  du  bassin  de  Briey  ;  the  very  lucid  com- 
mentary on  this  Commission,  by  its  rapporteur,  M.  Fernand  Engerand, 
entitled  "La  Bataille  de  la  Frontiere";  and  the  official  publication 
"  Quatre  Mois  de  Guerre :  Rapport  sur  Fensemble  des  operations  du  2  aout 
au  2  decembre  1914." 


attempts  of  the  enemy  to  cross  the  Meuse  between  Givet  and  6-15  Aug. 
Namur."     On    the    15th,    in    conjunction    with    General     1914- 
Mangin's  8th  Infantry  Brigade  (specially  detailed  to  sup- 
port   the    Cavalry    Corps),    it    repulsed    an    attempt    of 
von  Richthofen's  Cavalry  Corps  (Guard  and  5th  Cavalry 
Divisions)  to  cross  near  Dinant. 

Between  the  6th  and  8th  August,  it  became  certain  that 
an  enemy  force  containing  units  belonging  to  five  different 
army  corps  was  operating  against  Liege  ;  but  the  main 
group  of  the  German  Armies  appeared  to  the  French 
General  Staff  to  be  around  Metz  in  front  of  Thionville  and 
Luxembourg.  The  enemy  was  thus,  it  was  thought,  in  a 
position  either  to  advance  westwards  if  Liege  fell,  or  if 
Liege  held  out  to  wheel  southwards,  pivoting  on  Metz.  A 
decision  was  therefore  made  by  General  JoSre,  and  com- 
municated to  the  French  Armies  on  the  8th  August,1  to  the 
effect  that  his  intention  was  to  bring  the  Germans  to  battle 
with  all  his  forces  united  as  in  the  original  plan,  with  his 
right  extended  to  the  Rhine.  If  necessary,  the  left  of  the 
line  would  be  held  back,  so  as  to  avoid  the  premature 
engagement  of  one  of  the  Armies  before  the  others  could 
come  to  its  assistance.  If,  however,  the  enemy's  right 
were  delayed  in  front  of  Liege,  or  turned  southwards,  the 
left  would  be  advanced.  As  the  concentration  would  not 
be  finished  until  the  18th,  it  was  still  too  early  to  give 
detailed  orders  ;  but  the  instructions  provided  for  the 
Armies  gaining  ground  as  soon  as  they  were  ready  to 

Meantime  in  Alsace,  "  to  facilitate  the  attack  of  the 
main  Armies,"  the  small  offensive — outlined  in  the  original 
plan — was  commenced  on  the  extreme  right  by  a  detach- 
ment of  the  First  Army,  consisting  of  the  VII.  Corps 
and  8th  Cavalry  Division.  This  detachment  crossed  the 
frontier  on  the  6th  August.  After  its  advanced  guard  had 
reached  Mulhausen,  it  found  itself  in  the  presence  of 
superior  forces,  and  was  withdrawn.  On  the  14th  the 
offensive  was  renewed  with  a  stronger  force,  called  the 
Army  of  Alsace,  consisting  of  the  VII.  Corps,  the  Alpine 
and  three  Reserve  divisions,  under  General  Pau.  On  the 
same  date  the  First  and  Second  Armies  began  their  forward 
movement  across  the  frontier.  For  the  Armies  on  the  left 
only  certain  precautions  were  ordered.  But  during  the 
afternoon  of  the  15th,  news  came  from  the  Belgian 
Army  that  200,000  Germans  were  crossing  the  Meuse 

1  In  Instruction  Gtntrale  No.  1,  dated  8th  August  1914,  7  A.M. 


15-16  Aug.  below  Vise,  and  from  the  I.  Corps  of  the  attack  at 
1914.  Dinant;  the  Grand  Quartier  General  (G.Q.G.)  in  con- 
sequence ordered  the  III.  and  X.  Corps  of  the  Fifth 
Army  to  join  the  I.  Corps.  General  Lanrezac  was  further 
directed  to  hand  his  II.  Corps  and  group  of  Reserve 
divisions  to  the  Fourth  Army,  in  compensation  for  which 
there  were  sent  to  him  two  recently  arrived  African 
divisions  and  the  XVIII.  Corps,  originally  in  the  Second 
Army,  from  the  General  Reserve.  The  Fourth  Army  then 
occupied  the  ground  vacated  by  the  Fifth,  and  the 
Third  took  over  the  objectives  lately  assigned  to  the 
Fourth.  The  duty  of  masking  Metz  was  given  to  a  new 
force,  the  Army  of  Lorraine,  composed  of  three  Reserve 
divisions  from  the  Third  Army  and  three  others  sent  up  for 
the  purpose  ;  General  Maunoury,  who  had  originally  been 
on  the  Italian  frontier,  was  given  command  of  it.  There 
was  thus  a  general  taking  of  ground  to  the  left. 

General  Joffre's  general  plan  of  operations  now  began 

to  take  definite  shape  as  cumulative  evidence  showed  that 

the  main  German  advance  was  in  progress  through  Belgium. 

Map  2.  The  situation  as  it  presented  itself  to  him  on  the   16th 

August  was  as  follows  : 

"  In  the  north,  seven  or  eight  German  army  corps  and  four 
"  cavalry  divisions  are  endeavouring  to  pass  westwards  between 
"  Givet  and  Brussels,  and  even  beyond  these  points." 

In  the  centre  between  Bastogne  and  Thionville  there  were 
thought  to  be  six  or  seven  army  corps,  and  two  or  three 
cavalry  divisions.  South  of  Metz,  the  Germans  appeared 
to  be  on  the  defensive. 

His  intention  now  was  to  make  the  principal  attack 
with  the  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  through  Luxembourg 
and  Belgian  Luxembourg,  so  as  to  strike  at  the  flank  and 
communications  of  the  enemy  forces  which  had  crossed  the 
Meuse  between  Namur  and  the  Dutch  frontier,  and  if 
possible  attack  them  before  they  could  deploy  for  battle 
by  wheeling  south.  To  support  this  offensive  the  First 
and  Second  Armies  were  to  make  only  a  secondary  attack 
between  Metz  and  the  Vosges,  for  the  purpose  of  holding 
the  enemy,  who  seemed  to  be  gradually  shifting  westwards, 
and  who  otherwise  might  be  able  to  take  in  flank  the 
French  Armies  attacking  in  Luxembourg.  Lastly,  the 
left  wing,  consisting  of  the  Fifth  Army,  the  British  Army 
when  it  should  arrive,  and  the  Belgian  Army,  was  to  move 
up  so  as  to  hold  in  check  any  German  forces  that  might 


advance  from  the  Meuse,  and  so  gain  sufficient  time  to  allow  20  Aug. 
the  attack  of  the  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  to  become   1914- 
effective.     In  order  to  give  weight  to  the  attack,  the  Third 
and  Fourth  Armies  were  considerably  strengthened.1 

In  brief,  General  Joffre's  first  object  was  to  break  the 
enemy's  centre,  and  then  he  intended  to  fall  with  all 
available  forces  on  the  right  or  western  wing  of  the  German 

The  general  advance  was  to  take  place  on  the  21st. 
The  positions  on  the  morning  of  the  20th  indicate  the 
preliminary  movements  which  had  been  made  for  the 
purpose.  They  were  : 

The  Army  of  Alsace  had  reached  Mulhausen. 
The  First  and  Second  Armies  were  across  the  frontier  in  front 
of  Luneville  and  Nancy,  from  near  Sarrebourg  to  Delme, 
about  thirty-six  miles  north-west  of  Sarrebourg. 
The  Army  of  Lorraine  observed  Metz. 

The  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  were  close  up  to  the  Belgian 
frontier,  astride  the  river  Chiers,  from  near  Longwy  to 
Sedan,  ready  to  cross  the  river  Semoy.  MaP  5- 

The  Fifth  Army  was  disposed  : 

The  I.  Corps  and  8th  Infantry  Brigade  on  the  Meuse, 
near  Dinant,  facing  east,  with 

The  51st  Reserve  Division  marching  up  from  the  south 
to  act  as  a  link  between  the  French  Fourth  and  Fifth 

The  X.  and  III.  Corps,  each  with  an  African  division 
attached  to  it,  lay  along  the  Sambre  near  Charleroi, 
facing  north. 

The  XVIII.  Corps  was  echeloned  to  the  left  rear  on 
the  line  Gozee — Thuin  (6  miles  and  9  miles  south-west 
of  Charleroi). 

General  Valabregue's  two  remaining  Reserve  divisions 
were  on  the  left  of  the  XVIII.  Corps  and  north-east  of 
Maubeuge,  in  the  gap  into  which  General  Joffre  intended 
the  British  Army  should  move  up. 

1  To  make  the  changes  clear,  they  are  enumerated  together  here  : 

The  Third  Army  was  reinforced  by  one  Reserve  division,  and  then  by 
two  more. 

The  Fourth  Army  took  over  from  the  Fifth  Army  :   II.  Corps  ;   XI. 
Corps ;  52nd  and  60th  Reserve  Divisions  (leaving  it  the  51st) ;  a  cavalr 
division  ;  and  the  Moroccan  Division  from  the  IX.  Corps  of  the  Second 

The  Fifth  Army,  to  make  up  for  this,  received  the  37th  and  38th 
Divisions  from  Africa  ;  the  XVIII.  Corps  from  the  Second  Army  ;  and 
General  Valabregue's  Group  of  three  Reserve  divisions.  So  that  the  corps 
it  now  contained  were  the  I.,  III.,  X.,  and  XVIII.,  with  the  37th  Division 
added  to  the  III.  and  the  38th  to  the  X. 


20-21  Aug.  Further  to  the  west  and  beyond  the  space  to  be  occupied 

1914.  by   the    British,    were   three    Territorial   divisions   under 

General  d'Amade,   the  84th  near  Douai,   the  82nd  near 

Arras,    and    the     81st    between    Hazebrouck    and     St. 


It  will  be  observed  that  the  front  of  the  Fifth  Army 
under  General  Lanrezac  along  the  Meuse  and  Sambre 
formed  a  salient,  at  the  apex  of  which  was  the  Belgian 
fortress  of  Namur,  on  which  by  the  evening  of  the  20th 
the  Germans  were  closing.  Consequently,  any  failure  of 
his  right  to  hold  its  ground  on  the  Meuse  would  place  his 
centre  and  left  in  a  very  dangerous  situation,  and  render 
them  liable  to  be  cut  off. 

On  the  20th,  however,  before  the  general  advance  had 
begun,  misfortunes  had  already  overtaken  the  French. 
"  The  First  and  Second  Armies,  tired  by  several  days  of 
marching  and  fighting,  came  up  against  strongly  organized 
positions,  armed  with  powerful  artillery,  whose  fire  was 
admirably  prepared  and  corrected  by  aeroplanes."  After 
being  violently  counter-attacked,  the  Second  Army  was 
compelled  to  retire  and  the  First  had  to  conform  to  its 
movements.  The  actions  in  which  they  were  engaged 
are  known  as  the  battles  of  Sarrebourg  and  Mor Range 
(25  miles  north-west  of  Sarrebourg).1 

On  the  21st  August,  in  spite  of  this  reverse  to  the  right 
wing,  the  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  crossed  the  frontier  and 
advanced  from  ten  to  fifteen  miles  into  the  difficult 
Ardennes  country,  hilly,  wooded,  and  with  marshy  bottoms. 
They  were  then  met  by  the  Armies  of  the  German  Crown 
Prince  and  Duke  Albert  of  Wiirttemberg,  numerically 
slightly  superior  to  them,2  and,  after  fighting  the  actions 
known  as  the  battles  of  Virton  and  the  Semoy 3  were  com- 
pelled to  fall  back  towards  the  Meuse.  The  attempt  to 
break  in  the  German  centre  before  the  right  wing  could 

1  It  may  be  added  here  that  an  attempted  pursuit  of  the  Second  Army 
by  the  Germans  received  a  serious  check  on  the  25th,  for,  in  spite  of  the 
reverse,  the  French  First  Army  returned  to  the  offensive  and  struck  them 
in  flank.     After  some  indecisive  fighting,  the  situation  of  the  French 
First  and  Second  Armies  became  stabilized  on  a  line  in  France,  just  inside 
the  frontier. 

2  French.  German. 

Third  Army      .        .        .    168,000  Fifth  Army       .        .        .    200,000 

Fourth  Army    .        .        .    193,000  Fourth  Army    .        .        .    180,000 

361,000  380,000 

3  Longwy  and  Neuf chateau  in  German  accounts. 


deliver  its  blow  against  the  Allied  left  wing  had  thus  failed,  IT  Aug. 
owing  to  the  facts  that  the  enemy  forces  in  the  Ardennes   1914t 
were  stronger  than  had  been  anticipated  and  part  were 
deployed  behind  positions  ready  to  receive  the  attack ; 
thanks  however  to  a  premature  enveloping  attack  attempted 
by  the  German  Crown  Prince  the  reverse  was  less  serious 
than  it  might  otherwise  have  been. 

As  regards  the  French  Fifth  Army,  General  Lanrezac 
had  considered  it  inadvisable  to  advance  simultaneously 
with  the  Armies  on  his  right.  He  preferred  to  wait  until 
his  reinforcements  should  have  arrived,  which  would  not 
be  until  the  23rd  ;  *•  until  the  Fourth  Army  should  have 
cleared  the  gorges  of  the  Semoy  and  shortened  by  its  ad- 
vance the  eastern  face  of  the  salient  which  the  front  of  the 
Fifth  Army  presented  to  the  enemy  ;  and  until  the  British 
Army  should  similarly  have  come  up  on  his  left.  As  will 
presently  be  seen,  Sir  John  French's  force  on  the  21st  was 
approaching  the  line  of  the  Mons — Conde  Canal.  The 
general  situation  in  which  it  was  about  to  play  its  part  may 
be  thus  summarized  : — 

The  French  First  and  Second  Armies  were  retiring  after 
the  battles  of  Sarrebourg  and  Morhange ; 

The  Third  and  Fourth  "  had  failed,  and  the  reverse  seemed 
serious  " ; 

The  Fifth  Army  was  in  a  salient  about  to  be  attacked  by 
two  German  Armies ; 

Namur  was  on  the  point  of  falling  (the  last  fort  surrendered 
on  the  25th)  ;  and 

The  Belgian  Army  had  been  driven  into  Antwerp. 

(See  Sketch  1  ;   Maps  1,  2,  &  5) 

Leaving  only  three  Active  corps  and  three  Reserve 
divisions,  assisted  by  a  cavalry  division,  one  Ersatz  'division 
and  Landwehr  formations,  some  250,000  men  in  all,  on  her 
Eastern  frontier,  where  she  had  the  co-operation  of  the 
Austro-Hungarian  Army,  and  the  IX.  Reserve  Corps  (until 
the  23rd  August)  and  Landwehr  formations  in  Schleswig 
to  guard  against  a  possible  landing,  Germany  had  assembled 

1  See  p.  38. 

2  This  summary  of  the  early  German  operations  is  compiled  from  the 
authorities  now  available  :  von  Bulow,  von  Kluck,  von  Hausen,  von  Kuhl, 
General  Staff  Monographs,  etc. 


17  Aug.  on  her  Western  frontier  seven  Armies,1  with  Generaloberst 
1914.  von  Moltke  as  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  and  practically 

Sketch  i.  in  command. 

Maps  i  By  the  evening  of  the  17th  August  2  these  Armies  were 

concentrated,  ready  to  move,  on  a  long  front  extending 
from  the  fortress  of  Strasbourg  to  the  Dutch  frontier  north 
of  Liege.  This  front  ran  through  Sarrebourg,  Metz  and 
Thionville  ;  3  up  the  centre  of  the  Duchy  of  Luxembourg 
(the  neutrality  of  which  had  been  violated  on  the  2nd 
August),  to  Liege ;  and  to  the  north  -  west  of  this 
fortress,  where  the  northernmost  German  Army,  von 
Kluck's,  was  deployed  facing  the  Belgians  on  the  Gette. 
In  order  to  reach  the  far  side  of  the  neutral  barrier 
formed  by  the  projecting  peninsula  of  Dutch  Limbourg, 
behind  which  it  had  been  assembled,  it  had  defiled  in 
three  columns  through  Aix  La  Chapelle.  The  Supreme 
Command  Orders  directed  the  Armies  of  von  Kluck 
(First)  and  von  Biilow  (Second),  acting  together  under 
the  latter  general,4  to  deal  with  the  Belgian  Army,  to 
force  it  away  from  Antwerp  and  to  reach  the  line  Namur — 
Brussels.  The  First  Army  was  to  detail  a  detachment  to 
mask  Antwerp,  and  provide  against  a  British  landing  on 
the  coast  by  holding  back  its  right.  Von  Hausen's  (Third) 
Army  was  to  gain  the  line  of  the  Meuse  from  Givet  to 
Namur.  Namur  was  to  be  attacked  and  taken  as  soon  as 
possible  by  the  left  of  the  Second  and  the  right  of  the  Third 
Armies.  Meanwhile,  the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies  were  to 
conform  so  that  the  whole  five  Armies  on  the  right  might 
carry  out  a  gigantic  wheel,  first  on  to  the  line  Thionville — 
Brussels,  and  then  forward  in  a  south-westerly  direction, 
Thionville  still  remaining  the  pivot. 

1  For  Order  of  Battle,  see  Appendices  6  and  7. 

Approximate  numbers  were,  excluding  higher  cavalry  formations  : 

First  Army    .....  320,000  men 

Second  Army          .          .          .          .  260,000 

Third  Army 180,000 

Fourth  Army          ....  180,000 

Fifth  Army 200,000 

Sixth  Army 220,000 

Seventh  Army         ....  125,000 


A  French  calculation  in  "La  Revue  Militaire  Generate  '    for  January 
1920  gives  1,440,000. 

2  See  "  Liittich-Namur,"  p.  67. 

3  The  continuous  fortifications  round  and  connecting  these  two  places 
form  the  so-called  Moselle  Position. 

4  The  order  of  the  17th  August  which  placed  von  Kluck  under  von 
Biilow  was  cancelled  on  the  27th,  but  reissued  on  the  10th  September. 


The  strategical  conception  dominating  the  initial  de- 
ployment of  the  German  Armies  on  the  Western  front  and 
the  invasion  of  Belgium  and  France  has,  during  1919- 
1920,  been  disclosed  by  the  publications  of  several  German 
General  Staff  officers,1  and  their  statements  are  confirmed 
by  the  order  issued  on  5th  September  by  the  German 
Supreme  Command.2 

The  strategic  objective  was  to  outflank  the  French  by 
the  west  and  drive  them  eastwards  against  the  Swiss 
frontier.  On  completion  of  the  deployment,  the  Sixth  and 
Seventh  Armies,  under  the  senior  army  commander,  Crown 
Prince  Rupprecht  of  Bavaria,  were  to  advance  against  the 
Moselle,  below  Frouard  (5  miles  north-north-west  of 
Nancy),  and  the  Meurthe  ;  they  were  to  hold  fast  the 
French  forces  (the  First  and  Second  Armies)  assembled 
there,  and  prevent  any  of  them  from  being  transferred  to 
the  left  wing  to  oppose  the  main  German  advance.  If 
attacked  seriously,  Prince  Rupprecht  was  to  retire  to  a 
prepared  position  flanked  by  Strasbourg  and  Metz.3 

Meanwhile,  the  great  wheel  on  Thionville  was  to  be 
continued.  By  the  22nd  day  of  mobilization  (23rd  August) 
it  was  expected  that  the  five  Armies  on  the  right  would 
have  reached  the  line  Ghent — Mons — Sedan — Thionville  ; 
by  the  31st  day  (1st  September)  the  line  Amiens — La  F£re— 
Rethel — Thionville.4  Whilst  the  other  Armies  held  their 
ground — the  Second  Army  digging  in  on  the  line  of  the  Oise 
or  Oise — Aisne  and  thus  covering  Paris  on  the  north  side — 
the  First  Army,  with  all  its  original  fourteen  divisions,5  was 
to  sweep  over  the  lower  Seine,6  past  the  west  of  Paris  and 
round  the  south.  It  was  to  be  followed  by  Ersatz  divisions, 
detailed  to  complete  the  investment  of  the  fortress.  When 
they  were  in  position,  the  First  Army,  reinforced  by  the 
Sixth  Army  and  by  every  division  that  could  be  spared 
from  the  other  Armies,  was  to  advance  eastwards  and  drive 
the  French  against  their  Moselle  fortresses,  the  Jura  and 

1  E.g.  von  Kuhl,  Foerster,  Tappen,  Baumgarten-Crusius. 

2  See  Baumgarten-Crusius's  "  Die  Marneschlacht,  1914,"  p.  73. 

3  The  subsequent  advance  of  the  German  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies, 
which  resulted  in  a  double  envelopment  being  attempted,  was  not,  we  are 
told,  originally  intended.     It  was  only  permitted  in  consequence  of  the 
initial  success  of  those  Armies  against  the  French,  and  the  difficulties  of 
sending  troops  from  them  to  the  right  flank  as  planned,  owing  to  the 
damage  done  to  the  Belgian  railways  (Tappen,  pp.  13-15). 

4  This  was  accomplished  in  spite  of  the  Belgian  resistance,  if  we  accept 
the  time-table  published  in  Germany  since  the  war. 

5  Four  (///.  R.  and  IX.  R.  Corps)  had  to  be  left  to  invest  Antwerp. 

6  The  order  to  advance  to  the  lower  Seine  was  actually  given  to  the 
First  Army,  in  spite  of  its  reduced  numbers,  on  the  27th  August.  • 



Switzerland.  The  same  plan  was  to  be  pursued  if  the 
enemy  abandoned  the  Oise,  and  withdrew  behind  the 
Marne  and  the  Seine.  To  give  sufficient  weight  to  the  blow 
which  was  to  crush  the  Allies'  left,  roll  up  the  line  from  the 
westward  and,  in  conjunction  with  the  advance  of  the 
Third,  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies,  push  the  entire  line  of 
battle  south-east  towards  neutral  territory,  five  of  the  ten 
cavalry  divisions  and  twenty-six  out  of  the  total  of  the 
whole  seventy -two  divisions  on  the  Western  front  were 
allotted  to  the  two  Armies  under  General  von  Billow.1 

In  order  that  the  merits  of  the  plan  may  be  judged 
it  may  be  added  here  in  anticipation  of  the  narrative, 
that  the  part  of  it  which  involved  swinging  round  the 
west  of  Paris  was  abandoned  on  the  evening  of  the  30th 
August.  On  that  date  the  First  Army  turned  south-east 
to  exploit  the  supposed  success  of  the  Second  Army  at 
Guise.2  The  Supreme  Command  on  the  morning  of  the 
31st  gave  its  approval  of  this  movement.  It  was  already 
beginning  to  find  that  it  had  not  sufficient  troops  to  carry 
out  the  original  plan.  There  was  a  fifty 'mile  interval 
between  the  Fourth  and  Second  Armies  that  the  Third  was 
not  strong  enough  to  fill,  and  the  First  and  Second  Armies 
had  not  only  suffered  very  heavily  in  battle  with  the 
French  Fifth  Army  and  the  B.E.F.,  but  they  and  the  Third 
Army  had  been  compelled  to  make  substantial  detachments  : 
thus  the  First  and  Second  Armies  left  the  ///.  Reserve 
and  IX.  Reserve  Corps  (four  divisions)  to  observe  the 
Belgian  Army  in  Antwerp  ;  the  Guard  Reserve  Corps  (two 
divisions)  to  invest  Namur,  with  the  assistance  of  the  XI. 
Corps  (two  divisions)  of  the  Third  Army  (both  the  XI.  and 
Guard  Reserve  Corps  went  later  from  Namur  to  Russia) ;  and 
the  VII.  Reserve  Corps  (two  divisions)  to  besiege  Maubeuge  ; 
besides  minor  detachments,  such  as  a  division  of  the  XII. 
Reserve  Corps  at  Givet,  a  brigade  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps 
in  Brussels,  a  brigade  of  the  VII.  Corps  at  Maubeuge. 
Thus  the  striking  wing,  the  three  Armies  on  the  right, 

1  The  density  of  the  different  German  Armies  on  the  original  front  on 
the  17th  August  is  of  interest : 

First  Army  front     18  miles,  about  18,000  men  per  mile. 

Second  20  13,000 

Third  15  12,000 

Fourth  30  6,000 

Fifth  40  5,000 

Sixth  70  3,100 

Seventh  35  3,500 

2  Kluck,  p.  76,  says  it  was  at  the  suggestion  of  von  Billow  ;    Biilow, 
p.  42,  makes  out  that  von  Kluck  did  it  on  his  own  initiative. 


was  reduced  from  thirty-four  to  less  than  twenty-five 

The  scope  of  the  plan  was  far  too  wide  for  the  forces 
available ;  for  had  the  French  defended  Lille,  La  Fere  and 
Rheims,  as  might  have  been  expected,  still  further  detach- 
ments must  have  been  left  behind.  Further,  insufficient 
allowance  appears  to  have  been  made  for  casualties,  or,  at 
any  rate,  for  such  heavy  losses  as  the  Germans  suffered, 
since  no  reinforcements  from  the  depots  reached  the  Western 
Armies  until  the  14th  September.1  The  plan  was  strategic- 
ally bad,  for  it  was  out  of  proportion  to  the  means  available. 
This  appears  to  have  been  recognized  by  Ludendorff  when 
head  of  the  Operations  Section  of  the  Prussian  Great 
General  Staff  in  1912,  for  he  put  forward  a  demand  for  six 
divisions  to  be  added  to  the  Army.2 

Thus  von  Moltke  no  doubt  gladly  accepted,  for  tactical 
purposes,  the  solution  offered  by  the  inward  wheel  of  the 
First  Army,  and  evolved  a  reduced  plan  in  which  the  outer 
flank  should  pass  east  instead  of  west  of  Paris.  On  the  3rd 
September  an  order  was  accordingly  issued  to  the  First  and 
Second  Armies  to  force  the  whole  French  Army  away  from 
Paris  in  a  south-easterly  direction  towards  the  Swiss 
frontier.3  How  this  plan  fared  will  be  narrated  in  due 

It  may  be  noted  that  in  the  original  plan,  dated  1905, 
drawn  up  by  Graf  Schlieffen,  von  Moltke's  predecessor, 
fifty-three  divisions  were  allotted  to  the  five  Armies, 
First  to  Fifth,  for  the  great  wheel ;  in  1914  there  were 
fifty-five.  Of  the  nine  new  divisions  which  became 
available  in  the  interval,  eight  were  allotted  to  the  Sixth 
and  Seventh  Armies  to  ensure  the  inviolability  of  the 
Reichsland,  whilst  only  one  was  added  to  the  right  wing, 
which  however  also  received  one  division  originally  allotted 
to  the  Russian  frontier.4 

Comparing  now  the  initial  plans  of  the  two  belligerents, 
we  see  what  had  happened  as  regards  the  main  French 
attacks  :  that  made  by  the  Armies  of  Dubail  and  Castelnau 
on  the  14th  August  south  of  Metz  found  the  German  Sixth 
and  Seventh  Armies  on  the  defensive,  in  strong  positions. 
The  general  strategic  advantage  remained  with  the  Germans : 
their  345,000  men,  including  the  detachments  in  Upper 

1  Zwehl,  p.  73  ;  elsewhere  the  20th  September  is  given. 

2  Ludendorff,  "  Urkunden,"  p.  59. 

3  Baumgarten-Crusius,   p.   66.     This   order  is   further   explained   by 
another  of  the  4th,  Kluck,  p.  97. 

4  Kuhl,  pp.  178-180,  Foerster,  pp.  13,  17-18. 


Alsace,  contained  about  456,000  French.  The  offensive 
of  the  Armies  of  Ruffey  and  de  Langle  de  Gary  north  of 
Thionville,  commencing  on  the  21st  August,  encountered 
the  German  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies,  which  had  begun  on 
the  17th  to  wheel  forward  to  the  line  Thionville — Givet. 
Thus  two  Armies  met  two  Armies  of  about  equal  strength. 
Maps.  The  result  of  the  above  operations  was,  practically, 
equilibrium,  but  it  left  three  German  Armies,  von  Hausen's, 
von  Billow's  and  von  Kluck's,  comprising  in  all  thirty-four 
divisions,  free  to  deal  with  Lanrezac's  Army,  the  tiny 
British  Army  of  four  divisions,  and  the  almost  equally 
small  Belgian  Army  of  six  divisions — thirty-four  divisions 
against  twenty,  with  a  frontier  destitute  of  natural  ob- 
stacles, guarded  only  by  obsolete  fortresses,  and  the 
shortest  and  most  direct  road  to  Paris  in  front  of  them. 

The  first  step  in  the  German  plan  had  therefore  been 
successful,  as  regards  its  objectives  ;  the  line  laid  down  for 
the  first  stage  of  the  wheel  on  Thionville  had  been  reached, 
and  Liege  and  Namur  had  been  taken  ;  it  was  unsuccessful 
only  in  that  the  Belgian  Army  had  not  been  forced  away 
from  Antwerp,  which  it  entered,  after  rear-guard  fighting, 
on  the  20th.  Surprise  has  sometimes  been  expressed 
that  the  Germans  did  not  push  at  least  detachments  to  the 
Channel  ports  in  August  1914,  when  there  was  no  force 
available  to  oppose  them  except  some  Territorial  units. 
It  would  appear  that  they  did  intend  to  do  so,  but  the 
necessity  of  investing  the  Belgian  Army  in  Antwerp 
absorbed  the  two  corps,  ///.  Reserve  and  IX.  Reserve, 
which  had  been  selected  for  this  purpose ; 1  and  when  the 
opening  phase  of  the  campaign  was  going  so  nearly  accord- 
ing to  plan,  and  there  seemed  a  certainty  of  winning  the 
war  in  a  few  days  by  a  defeat  of  the  French  in  a  super- 
Sedan  in  the  open  field,  it  would  have  been  strategically 
unjustifiable  to  divert  a  single  man  to  seize  a  section  of 
the  coast,  which,  like  Italy  after  the  battle  of  Austerlitz, 
must  have  yielded  to  the  invaders  without  serious  conflict 
directly  the  main  decision  had  fallen. 

(See  Sketches  1  &  3  ;   Maps  2  &  3) 

12  Aug.  On  the  12th  August,  the  Commander-in-Chief,  retain- 

Sfcet(J  l-  ing  only  a  small  party  of  his  immediate  staff  with  him, 

JNlup  2i. 

1  See  footnote,  p.  34. 

SKETCH   3. 


•       1 


ARRIVAL  OF  THE  B.E.F.  IN  FRANCE          47 

despatched  General  Headquarters  from  London  to  South-  14-17  Aug. 
ampton.     They  crossed  to  Havre  on  the  14th,  and  pro-      1914- 
ceeded  by  rail  early  on  the  16th,  reaching  Le  Cateau  late 
that  night. 

On  the  14th  August,  Sir  John  French  himself,  with  his 
party,  left  London.  He  arrived  at  Amiens  soon  after 
9  P.M.  An  hour  later,  General  Valabregue's  chief  staff 
officer  came  to  report  that  his  group,  the  53rd  and  69th 
Reserve  Divisions,  was  entrenching  south  of  the  Oise 
between  Vervins  and  Hirson,  as  a  second  line  to  the  French 

On  the  following  days,  15th,  16th  and  17th  August, 
the  Commander-in-Chief  proceeded  to  visit,  in  succession, 
the  French  Minister  of  War  at  Paris,  General  Joffre  at 
the  Grand  Quartier  General  at  Vitry  le  Fran£ois,  and 
General  Lanrezac  at  Fifth  Army  Headquarters  at  Rethel. 
From  them  he  learned  in  some  detail  the  disposition  of  the 
French  forces  in  the  angle  formed  by  the  Sambre  and  the 
Meuse,  south-west  of  Namur.  General  Lanrezac's  Army 
was  then  rapidly  concentrating  in  the  area  south  of 
Charier oi :  the  I.  Corps,  on  the  right,  being  already  massed 
between  Namur  and  Givet ;  the  head  of  the  III.  Corps  was 
at  Philippe ville,  and  that  of  the  X.  Corps  at  Bohain,  midway 
between  St.  Quentin  and  Le  Cateau.  The  XVIII.  Corps 
was  expected  to  begin  arriving  in  the  area  between  Bohain 
and  Avesnes  on  the  18th  and  19th.  General  Valabregue's 
divisions  were  in  position,  as  already  stated  above,  south  of 
Avesnes.  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  was  advancing 
again,  this  time  north-east,  from  Charleroi  and,  if  driven 
back,  would  pass  to  the  left  of  the  British  Army.  The  task 
of  that  Army  was  to  move  northward  and  form  the  extreme 
left  of  the  French  advance. 

Throughout  this  period,  that  is  to  say  between  the 
12th  and  17th  August,  the  British  troops  had  been  passing 
across  the  Channel  and  disembarking  on  French  soil. 
All  was  ready  for  their  reception,  and  the  welcome  given 
to  them  by  the  inhabitants  was  enthusiastic.  On  the 
14th  and  the  following  days  the  troops  began  to  move 
up  by  train  to  the  areas  of  concentration,  which  were  Sketch  3. 
arranged  so  that  the  army  was  assembled  in  a  pear-shaped 
area  between  Maubeuge  and  Le  Cateau,  about  twenty-five 
miles  long  from  north-east  to  south-west,  and  averaging 
ten  miles  wide.  The  cavalry  was  at  the  north-eastern  end, 
ready  to  join  hands  with  the  French  Fifth  Army. 

In  detail,  the  areas  were  :  MaP  3- 


17-20  Aug.      Cavalry  :  East  of  Maubeuge,  Jeumont,  Damousies,  Cousolre. 

Divisional  Headquarters,  Aibes. 

II.  Corps  :   East  of  Landrecies.     Headquarters,  Landrecies. 
3rd  Division  :   Marbaix,  Taisnieres,  Noyelles. 
5th  Division  :   Maroilles,  Landrecies,  Ors. 
I.  Corps  :   East  of  Bohain.     Headquarters,  Wassigny. 
1st  Division  :   Boue,  Esqueheries,  Leschelles. 
2nd  Division  :   Grougis,  Mennevret,  Hannappes. 
The;Royal  Flying  Corps,  taking  the  field  in  war  for  the  first 
time,  assembled  four  squadrons,  with  105  officers,  755  other 
ranks,  and  63  aeroplanes  at  the  aerodrome  of  Maubeuge ;  it  also 
formed  an  aircraft  park  at  Amiens. 

The  concentration  was  virtually  complete  on  the  20th. 
One  sad  incident  marred  the  progress  to  the  scene  of  action, 
namely  the  death  of  Lieutenant-General  Sir  James  Grierson, 
commanding  the  II.  Corps,  who  expired  suddenly  in  the 
train  on  the  morning  of  the  17th.  Sir  John  French  asked 
that  Sir  Herbert  Plumer  might  take  General  Grierson' s 
place  ;  but  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War  decided  to  send 
Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien. 

On  the  19th  August,  G.H.Q.  was  informed  that  the  4th 
Division  would  be  despatched  from  England  immediately ; 
and  it  was  settled  that  the  2/Royal  Welch  Fusiliers, 
I/Scottish  Rifles,  I/Middlesex  and  2/Argyll  and  Suther- 
land Highlanders,  which  had  been  employed  on  the 
Lines  of  Communication,  should  be  formed  into  the  19th 
Infantry  Brigade.  On  the  same  day  the  Flying  Corps 
carried  out  its  first  reconnaissances  from  Maubeuge  north- 
ward towards  Brussels,  and  north-west  over  Tournai 
and  Courtrai.  No  large  bodies  of  troops  were  seen ;  and 
on  the  20th  the  British  cavalry  was  pushed  forward  as  far 
as  Binche  on  the  north  without  encountering  any  enemy. 
But  an  aerial  reconnaissance  that  day  observed  a  column 
of  troops  stretching  through  Louvain  as  far  as  the  eye 
could  reach.  This  was  a  column  of  the  German  First 
Army.  Diverting  one  of  his  corps  (the  ///.  Reserve), 
followed  later  by  the  IX.  Reserve  Corps  and  the  equivalent 
of  five  divisions,1  to  mask  the  Belgian  forces  in  Antwerp, 
von  Kluck  was  pressing  westward  with  the  remainder  of 
the  First  Army.  On  this  day,  the  20th,  his  troops  entered 
Brussels.  It  was  a  fateful  day  in  many  respects,  for  during 
its  course  the  main  Belgian  Army  retired  into  Antwerp, 
the  Germans  approached  within  decisive  range  of  Namur, 
and  General  Joffre  gave  his  orders  for  the  general  advance. 
1  See  footnote,  p.  34. 


In  this  great  movement,  the  outline  of  which  has  20  Aug. 
already  been  given,1  the  British  were  to  advance  on  the  1914- 
left  of  the  Fifth  Army  north-east,  by  way  of  Soignies,  in 
the  general  direction  of  Nivelles.  If  von  Kluck  wheeled 
southward  from  Brussels,  it  was  not  anticipated  that  his 
right  would  extend  much  beyond  Mons.  Therefore,  if  the 
British  were  in  line  about  this  place,  they  would  be  ready, 
when  once  General  Lanrezac  had  passed  the  Sambre,  to 
wheel  eastward  and  envelop  the  right  of  the  Germans. 
To  make  this  envelopment  the  more  certain,  General 
Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps,  which  had  on  this  day  fallen  back 
across  the  Sambre  to  Fontaine  1'Eveque  (midway  between 
Charleroi  and  Binche),  was  directed  to  take  position  beyond 
the  left  of  the  British.  Still  further  to  the  west,  the  three 
French  Territorial  divisions,  under  the  command  of  General 
d'Amade,  were  to  push  gradually  forward.2 

(See  Sketch  3  ;   Maps  2,  3,  &  5) 

The  initiative  seemed  to  be  passing  into  the  hands  of  Sketch  3. 
the  Germans,  and  it  was  urgent  to  ascertain  by  aerial  and  Maps  2 
other  reconnaissance  what  use,  if  any,  they  were  making  of  3* 
it.  Meanwhile,  in  pursuance  of  General  Joffre's  plan, 
G.H.Q.  on  the  evening  of  the  20th  issued  orders3  for  a 
movement  northward  during  the  three  ensuing  days. 
An  attached  march  table  gave  the  approximate  positions 
to  be  reached  each  day.  The  general  effect  of  these 
orders  when  executed  would  be  that  on  the  23rd  August 
the  Army  would  be  aligned  on  a  front,  roughly  facing 
north-east,  from  Estinne  au  Mont  (near  Binche)  on  the 
south-east  to  Lens,  eight  miles  north  of  Mons,  on  the  north- 
west, with  the  Cavalry  Division  on  the  left,  while  the  5th 
Cavalry  Brigade,  having  covered  the  right  flank  during 
the  movement,  would  find  itself  finally  in  advance  of  the 
right  front.  The  daily  moves  were  to  be  as  follows  : 

The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  was  to  proceed  on  the  21st 
to  the  neighbourhood  of  Binche,  the  right  of  the  line,  and 
there  remain  ;  the  Cavalry  Division,  moving  on  the  left 
of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade,  was  to  march  level  with  it  on  the 
21st,  and  on  the  22nd  proceed  to  Lens,  the  left  of  the  line, 

1  See  p.  38. 

2  For  further  information  as  regards  General  d'Amade's  Force,  see  p. 

3  Appendix  10. 

VOL.  I  E 


where  it  would  halt  astride  the  road  that  connects  Mons  and 
Ath.  Covered  by  the  cavalry,  the  rest  of  the  Army  was 
to  advance.1 

On  the  21st  the  II.  Corps  to  the  line  Goegnies — Bavai ;  the 

I.  Corps  to  the  line  Avesnes — Landrecies. 

On  the  22nd  the  II.  Corps  north-westward  to  the  line  from 
Moris  westward  to  Thulin  ;  the  I.  Corps  north-eastward  to  the 
line  Hautmont — Hargnies. 

On  the  23rd  the  II.  Corps  was  to  wheel  eastwards,  the  two 
divisions  being  one  in  rear  of  the  other,  with  its  front  east  of 
Mons  between  Spiennes  and  St.  Denis  ;  the  I.  Corps  was  to 
incline  north-eastward  and  come  up  on  the  right  of  the  II.,  on 
a  line  from  Estinne  au  Mont  westward  to  Harmignies  (im- 
mediately south-east  of  Spiennes). 

The  morning  of  the  21st  broke  thick  and  misty,  render- 
ing aerial  reconnaissance  impossible  until  the  afternoon. 
The  cavalry  moved  northwards  early,  and  after  reaching 
Villers  St.  Ghislain  (six  miles  south-east  of  Mons)  heard 
that  German  cavalry  was  in  force  five  miles  to  the  north- 
ward ;  a  patrol  which  entered  Mons  found  a  similar  report 
current  there.  The  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  after  crossing 
the  Conde  Canal  east  of  Mons,  took  up  a  line  upon  both 
banks  from  Maurage  to  Obourg.  Patrols  of  the  9th 
Lancers  and  4th  Dragoon  Guards  sighted  German  patrols 
in  the  vicinity  of  the  two  bridges  east  of  Mons,  those  of 
Nimy  and  Obourg ;  but  contact  was  not  established. 
Information  from  peasants,  however,  pointed  to  the  move- 
ment of  considerable  forces  southward  from  Soignies  (ten 
miles  north-east  of  Mons). 

The  II.  Corps  followed  the  cavalry  to  a  line  level  with 
and  west  of  Maubeuge,  the  3rd  Division,  on  the  right,  to 
the  line  Bettignies — Feignies — La  Longueville,  and  the  5th 
Division,  on  the  left,  to  the  line  Houdain — St.  Waast — 
Gommegnies.  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien  reached  Bavai 
from  England  at  4  P.M.  and  took  over  command  of  the 

II.  Corps.     The  outposts  of  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade  on 
this  evening  overlooked  the  old  battlefield  of  Malplaquet, 
and   were   found   by   the   Lincolnshire   Regiment   which, 
together  with  the  Royal  Scots  Fusiliers,  had  fought  in  the 
action  under  Marlborough,  two  hundred  years  before. 

The  I.  Corps  simultaneously  moved  up  to  the  line  from 
Avesnes  to  Landrecies,  about  ten  miles  behind  the  front 
of  the  II.,  the  1st  Division  on  the  right,  and  the  2nd  on 

1  The  positions  of  troops  are  always  given  from  right  to  left,  unless 
otherwise  stated. 


the  left.  The  day  was  sultry  and  many  of  the  reservists  21  Aug. 
suffered  in  consequence ;  a  considerable  number  were  still  l^u. 
feeling  the  effects  of  inoculation,  and  all  found  the  hard 
irregular  surface  of  the  cobbled  roads  extremely  trying  to 
march  on.  In  the  afternoon  the  weather  cleared  and 
the  Flying  Corps  was  able  to  carry  out  reconnaissances. 
It  reported  a  large  body  of  cavalry  with  some  infantry  Map  5. 
and  guns  south-east  of  Nivelles.  This  intelligence  was 
confirmed,  and  the  formation  identified  as  the  German 
9th  Cavalry  Division,  by  a  British  intelligence  officer  who 
was  in  Nivelles  when  the  division  entered,  but  escaped  by 
motor.  The  presence  of  two  more  cavalry  divisions  was 
ascertained,  one  of  which,  the  2nd,  had  been  pushed  far  to 
the  westward,  and  had  reached  the  line  Ghent — Audenarde, 
being  evidently  intended  to  explore  the  area  as  far  as  the 
sea.  The  other  German  cavalry  division,  supposed  to  be 
the  4th,  was  between  Charleroi  and  Seneffe.1  These  three 
cavalry  divisions  formed  the  German  //.  Cavalry  Corps 
under  General  von  der  Mar  wit  z.2  The  main  German  line 
was  reported  as  extending  south-east  from  Grammont, 
through  Enghien,  Nivelles,  Genappes  and  Sombreffe  to 
Charleroi.  It  is  now  known  that  from  right  to  left — that 
is  to  say  from  north-west  to  south-east — the  order  of  the 
German  corps  was  IV.  (with  II.  echeloned  behind  it), 
///.,  IX.,  VII.,  X.,  and  Guard  Corps,  with  four  Reserve 
corps  in  rear  of  them.  The  Allied  High  Command  was 
correctly  informed  as  to  the  actual  number  of  German 
corps  in  Belgium;  but  it  could  only,  of  course,  forecast 
the  scope  of  the  movement  in  progress :  part  of  von 
Kluck's  cavalry  at  least,  and  possibly  some  of  his  infantry 
had  begun  a  wheel  south-westwards  from  Brussels. 
Whether  he  intended  to  continue  in  that  direction  or 
sweep  further  westwards,  it  was  as  yet  impossible  to  judge 
on  the  available  information.  On  the  British  right, 
General  Lanrezac's  Army  was  in  contact  with  infantry  of 
the  German  Second  Army  along  the  whole  line'  of  the 
Sambre  on  either  side  of  Charleroi,  from  Tamines  to  Pont 
a  Celles,  so  that  hard  fighting  in  that  quarter  on  the 
morrow  was  almost  certain.  There  seemed  every  chance 
that  it  might  spread  further  to  the  west. 

At  2.45  P.M.  G.H.Q.  ordered  the  cavalry  to  close  the 

1  According  to  von  Kluck,  p.  35,  it  was  near  Enghien.     The  identifica- 
tion of  the  other  cavalry  divisions  was  correct. 

2  The  corps,  after  concentrating  near  Ath,  was  sent  north-westwards 
towards  the  coast. 


line  between  the  French  left  and  Mons  :  the  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade  to  take  up  a  line  from  the  left  of  General  Sordet's 
Cavalry  Corps  at  Fontaine  1'fiveque  to  Peronnes,  in  front 
of  Binche,  and  the  Cavalry  Division  to  prolong  that  line 
to  the  Canal  at  Boussoit  (five  miles  east  of  Mons)  with 
another  brigade,  the  3rd.  Thence  patrols  were  to  be 
pushed  out  north  and  north-east.  Operation  orders,  issued 
from  G.H.Q.  shortly  before  midnight,1  directed  that  the 
march  table  issued  on  the  20th  should  hold  good  for  the 
22nd,  with  two  modifications.  The  outposts  of  the  II. 
Corps,  instead  of  having  their  right  on  Mons,  were  now  to 
hold  an  angle  with  Mons  in  the  apex — that  is  from  Givry 
north-westward  to  Nimy  and  thence  westward  along  the 
canal  to  Pommeroeul ;  and  as  soon  as  they  had  taken  this 
over,  the  Cavalry  Division  was  to  move  westward  to  a 
position  in  echelon  behind  the  left,  in  the  area  comprised 
within  the  triangle  Thulin  —  Quievrain  —  Baisieux,  with 
outposts  along  the  line  of  the  Canal  from  the  left  of  the 
II.  Corps  to  Conde".  The  intention  still  was  that  the  British 
Army  should  take  the  offensive. 

1  Appendices  11  and  12. 

22ND  AUGUST  1914 

(See  Sketch  3 ;   Maps  2,  3,  5,  &  6) 

AT  dawn  on  the  22nd  August  C  Squadron  of  the  4th  Maps  2 
Dragoon  Guards  (2nd  Cavalry  Brigade)  pushed  out  two  &  3- 
officer's  patrols  from  Obourg,  on  the  Canal,  north  towards 
Soignies ;  one  of  these  found  a  German  piquet  on  the  road, 
fired  on  it,  and  drove  it  off.  This  was  apparently  the 
first  shot  of  the  war  fired  by  the  British  on  the  continent. 
Later  a  troop  of  the  same  squadron  advanced  to  meet  a 
body  of  German  cavalry  which  was  moving  south  along 
the  road  from  Soignies  towards  Mons,  turned  it  back  near 
Casteau,  and  pursued  it  until  checked  by  fire.1  The  4th 
killed  three  or  four  of  the  enemy  and  captured  three  more, 
who  proved  to  belong  to  the  Jfih  Cuirassiers  of  the  9th 
Cavalry  Division.  Further  to  the  east,  the  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigade  found  all  clear  for  two  miles  north  of  the  Canal 
within  the  triangle  Gottignies — Roeulx — Houdeng  ;  but 
here  again  the  peasants  reported  the  enemy  to  be  in  strength 
to  the  north,  at  Soignies  and  north  of  La  Louviere  (eleven 
miles  east  of  Mons).  Still  further  east  patrols  of  the 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  early  found  contact  with  the  enemy 
in  the  direction  of  La  Louviere  and  reported  German 
troops  of  all  arms  to  be  advancing  from  the  north,  and 
the  French  to  be  retiring  across  the  Sambre.  General 
Sordet's  3rd  Cavalry  Division  passed  through  the  British 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  soon  after,  on  its  march  westward  ; 
but  it  was  not  until  nearly  10  A.M.  that  a  German  detach- 
ment of  all  arms 2  came  in  contact  with  two  squadrons  of 
the  Scots  Greys  (5th  Cavalry  Brigade),  which  were  holding 
the  bridges  over  the  Samme  at  Binche  and  Peronnes, 

1  German  accounts  also  record  this  as  the  first  contact.     "  Mons,"  p.  17. 

2  Apparently  of  the  13th  Division.     See  p.  61. 



facing  east.  The  enemy  made  little  effort  to  force  the 
passage,  though  he  shelled  the  Greys  heavily  but  ineffec- 
tively, and  kept  up  a  fairly  accurate  rifle  fire.  The  3rd 
Cavalry  Brigade,  in  support  of  the  5th,  remained  about 
Bray,  two  miles  in  rear,  whence  D  and  E  Batteries  R.H.A. 
fired  a  few  shells.  At  2  P.M.  the  Greys  slowly  drew  off, 
having  apparently,  by  sheer  superiority  of  marksmanship, 
inflicted  some  thirty  or  forty  casualties  at  the  cost  of  a 
single  officer  wounded.  A  troop  of  the  16th  Lancers, 
which  had  been  sent  to  their  support,  gave  chase  to  a 
hostile  patrol  on  the  way,  and  came  suddenly  upon  a 
party  of  Jdger  on  the  hill  immediately  to  west  of  Peronnes. 
The  troop  rode  straight  over  the  Jdger,  charged  through 
them  again  on  the  return  journey,  at  a  cost  of  only  one 
man  wounded  and  three  horses  killed,  and  then  left  them 
to  E  Battery  R.H.A.,  which  had  unlimbered  to  cover 
its  return.  Altogether,  the  cavalry  was  heartened  by  its 
work  on  this  day,  being  satisfied  that  it  was  superior  to 
the  German  horsemen,  both  mounted  and  dismounted, 
both  with  rifle  and  with  sword. 

The  cumulative  effect  on  the  British  cavalry  com- 
manders of  the  encounters  during  the  day  was  the  con- 
viction that  German  infantry  in  great  force  was  in  close 
support  of  the  German  cavalry.  They  had  made  reports 
in  that  sense  on  the  previous  day,  and  they  were  now  more 
than  ever  confirmed  in  their  opinion.  Aerial  reconnais- 
sance during  the  forenoon  did  not  tend  to  shake  this  view. 
One  aviator  landing  at  Beaumont  (about  twelve  miles  east 
of  Maubeuge)  to  take  in  petrol,  learned  from  General  de 
Mas-Latrie,  the  commander  of  the  French  XVIII.  Corps, 
that  General  Sordet,  on  his  march  westwards  to  the  left 
flank  of  the  Allied  Armies,  had  on  the  21st  encountered 
German  infantry  north  of  the  Sambre  Canal,  and  had  been 
compelled  to  fall  back.  This  accounted  for  his  movement 
southward  to  Binche.  Later,  another  British  aeroplane 
(which  returned  to  the  aerodrome  at  1.10  P.M.)  reported 
the  northern  part  of  Charleroi  and  many  other  towns 
and  villages  near  it  to  be  in  flames,  and  on  its  return 
westward  was  fired  at  by  an  infantry  brigade  between  Ath 
and  Enghien.  A  third  aeroplane  had  a  similar  experience, 
the  observer  being  wounded.  The  sum  total  of  these 
observations  was  to  the  effect  that  brigades  of  German 
infantry,  probably  amounting  to  a  corps  in  all,  filled  the 
roads  south  of  Grammont,  that  a  cavalry  division  was  at 
Soignies,  and  that  the  general  front  of  this  corps  and 


cavalry  division  extended,  facing  south-west,  from  Lessines  22  Aug. 
to  Soignies,1  no  part  of  them  being  west  of  the  Dendre   1914- 
Canal,  excepting  a  party  of  mounted  troops  which  had 
been  seen  at  Peruwelz,  immediately  to  the  north  of  Conde. 
Their  further  advance,  if  the  direction  was  maintained! 
would  bring  their  left  (east)  flank  to  Mons. 


Meantime,  the  British  I.  and  II.  Corps  were  advancing.  Maps  3 
In  view  of  the  situation,  both  corps  started  an  hour  and  a  &  5- 
half  before  the  time  that  had  been  originally  ordered.  The 
1st  Division,  moving  at  4  A.M.,  reached  its  selected  halting 
places — north  and  south-west  of  Maubeuge — at  Bettignies, 
St.  Remi  Mai  Bati,  Limont  Fontaine,  between  3  and  5  P.M. 
But  shortly  before  3.30  P.M.  Sir  Douglas  Haig  received 
orders  for  the  I.  Corps  to  continue  its  advance.  The 
result  of  the  morning's  reconnaissances  had  shown  G.H.Q. 
that,  if  the  Cavalry  Division  were  withdrawn,  as  already 
ordered,  to  the  left  of  the  line,  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade 
would  be  too  weak  to  cover  the  large  gap  between  the 
right  of  the  II.  Corps  and  the  left  of  the  French  XVIII. 
Corps  on  the  Sambre,  and  that  consequently  the  I.  Corps 
must  be  hurried  up  to  its  support.  Accordingly,  between 
5  and  7  P.M.  the  1st  Division  resumed  its  march,  but  did 
not  reach  its  billets  until  far  into  the  night,  the  2nd  and 
3rd  Infantry  Brigades  entering  Villers  Sire  Nicole  and 
Croix  lez  Rouveroy,  some  eight  to  ten  miles  south-west  of 
Binche,  between  9  and  10  P.M.,  whilst  the  1st  (Guards) 
Brigade  on  the  right  did  not  arrive  at  Grand  Reng  until 
2  to  3  A.M.  on  the  23rd.  This  was  a  long  march,  which 
tried  the  troops  severely. 

About  noon  the  2nd  Division,  which  had  started  at 
5  A.M.,  halted  in  depth  at  La  Longueville,  Hargnies,  and 
Pont  sur  Sambre,  which  lie  on  a  north  and  south  road 
passing  west  of  Maubeuge.  Its  head  was  thus  some  six 
miles  south-west  of  the  rear  of  the  1st  Division.  The  2nd 
Division  also  received  orders  to  resume  its  march ;  but 
the  orders  were  cancelled,  since  the  German  advance  had 
apparently  ended  for  the  day,  and  there  was  no  immediate 
necessity  to  make  such  a  call  on  the  troops. 

The  whole  movement  of  the  I.  Corps  was  covered  on 

1  According  to  von  Kluck  the  troops  in  question  were,  commencing 
on  the  west  :   IV.  Corps,  III.  Corps  and  9th  Cavalry  Division. 


the  west  by  a  flank  guard  of  the  Divisional  Cavalry,  which 
traversed  the  Forest  of  Mormal. 

Sketch  3.  Meanwhile,  in  the  II.  Corps,  the  3rd  Division  moved 
Map  6.  off  at  7  A.M.,  and  the  5th,  in  three  columns,  at  6  A.M.  ;  the 
former  reached  its  billets  around  Mons,  in  the  area  Nimy — 
Ghlin — Frameries — Spiennes,  at  about  1  P.M.,  and  the 
latter,  on  its  left,  the  line  of  the  Mons  Canal  from  Jemappes 
westward  to  Bois  de  Boussu,  one  or  two  hours  later.  The 
troops  again  suffered  much  from  the  cobbled  roads,  and 
the  march,  though  not  long,  was  extremely  trying.  The 
first  outpost  line  taken  up  by  the  3rd  Division,  consequent 
upon  the  reports  of  the  engagement  of  the  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade,  was  from  Givry  north-west  to  the  edge  of 
Mons.  Later  in  the  afternoon,  however,  the  line  was 
thrown  forward  in  a  wide  sweep  eastwards,  through  Villers 
St.  Ghislain,  St.  Symphorien,  the  bridge  at  Obourg,  and  the 
bridge  at  Lock  5,  to  Nimy.  The  8th  Infantry  Brigade 
took  the  right  of  this  line,  the  9th  the  left,  and  the  7th 
was  in  reserve  some  five  miles  in  rear  at  Frameries  and 
Ciply — the  village  around  which  Marlborough's  army  had 
bivouacked  on  the  night  before  the  battle  of  Malplaquet. 
On  the  left  of  the  3rd  Division,  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade 
of  the  5th  Division  occupied  the  line  of  the  Canal  from 
Mariette  to  Les  Herbieres,  and  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade 
from  Les  Herbieres  to  Pommeroeul.  The  total  front  round 
Mons  held  by  the  II.  Corps  was  over  twenty  miles. 

Thus  the  two  corps  were  approximately  in  the  positions 
assigned  to  them  in  G.H.Q.  orders  of  the  20th  August.  The 
I.  Corps  was  only  a  short  distance  from  its  intended 
position  ;  but  the  cavalry  was  now  about  to  move  due 
west,  and  a  wheel  of  the  II.  Corps  to  the  north-east  up  to 
Lens  had  still  to  take  place.  For  the  moment  the  line  of 
the  Mons  Canal,  now  held  by  the  outposts  of  the  II.  Corps, 
was  the  left  of  the  British  front,  and  with  the  I.  Corps' 
front  formed  a  salient  angle,  not  a  straight  line. 

A  huge  belt  of  woodland  extended  along  the  whole 
length  of  the  front  north  of  the  Canal,  capable  of  screening 
the  approach  of  the  enemy  to  within  two  miles,  or  even 
less,  of  the  British  piquet  line.  Around  Mons  itself  the 
Canal  forms  a  pronounced  salient  (the  "  Mons  Salient  "  as 
it  will  be  called),  which  was  ill-adapted  to  prolonged  and 
serious  defence.  On  appreciating  the  situation,  3rd  Divi- 
sion Headquarters,  which  had  been  warned  of  the  possi- 
bility of  an  attack  by  German  advanced  guards,  decided 
that  in  this  quarter  the  outposts  should  not  be  reinforced 


in  case  of  attack,  and  ordered  the  preparation  of  second  22  Aug. 
line  positions  in  rear,  which  will  presently  be  described.  1914- 
Meanwhile,  as  the  II.  Corps  came  up,  it  became  possible 
gradually  to  collect  the  Cavalry  Division.  Originally  it 
had  been  intended  that  the  division  should  move  westward 
at  noon,  but  this,  in  view  of  the  German  menace  about 
Binche,  had  been  considered  inadvisable.  At  4  P.M.,  how- 
ever, General  Allenby  gave  the  order  to  withdraw  west- 
ward. The  main  body  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  remained 
near  Estinne  au  Mont  (south-west  of  Binche),  leaving  the 
Scots  Greys  in  position  at  Estinne  au  Val,  a  couple  of 
miles  to  the  north-west.  At  6.30  P.M.  this  brigade,  having 
first  put  the  bridges  over  the  Samme  into  a  state  of  defence, 
went  into  billets  between  Binche  and  Merbes  Ste.  Marie. 
As  the  Cavalry  Division  drew  off,  it  was  followed  by  a 
German  airship.  After  a  most  painful  march  westward 
behind  the  II.  Corps,  along  some  fourteen  miles  of  cobbled 
street  through  the  dreary  squalor  of  an  interminable 
mining  village,  it  reached  its  billets  at  Elouges,  Quievrain 
and  Baisieux,  on  the  left  of  the  Army,  between  midnight 
and  3  A.M.  of  the  23rd. 


In  the  course  of  the  afternoon  the  Flying  Corps  made  Maps  3 
further  reconnaissances  towards  Charleroi,  and  ascertained  &  5< 
that  at  least  two  German  army  corps  1 — one  of  them  the 
Guard  Corps — and  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division,  were 
attacking  the  French  Fifth  Army  on  the  line  of  the  Sambre. 
In  the  evening,  the  observers  returned  with  very  grave 
news,  which  was  confirmed  by  the  British  liaison  officer 
with  General  Lanrezac  and  by  an  officer  of  the  Fifth  Army 
Headquarters  sent  by  that  general.  The  French  centre 
had  been  driven  back,  and  the  French  X.  Corps  had  retired 
to  the  line  St.  Gerard  (13  miles  E.S.E.  of  Charleroi)— 
Biesme — Gerpinnes,  from  five  to  ten  miles  south  of  the 
river ;  the  French  III.  Corps  had  likewise  fallen  back 
nearly  the  same  distance,,  to  a  line  from  Gerpinnes  west- 
ward to  Jamioulx  ;  the  XVIII.  Corps  on  the  left,  however, 
remained  in  its  original  position,  still  echeloned  to  the 
rear,  between  Marbaix  and  Thuin.  General  Sordet  had 
moved  southward  from  Binche,  and  was  halting  his  Cavalry 
Corps  for  the  night  at  Bersillies  1'Abbaye  (9  miles  south 
of  Binche),  striking  well  to  the  rear  of  the  British  Army 

1  Guard  and  A'.  Corps  (see  Biilow). 


before  moving  west.  General  Valabregue's  two  Reserve 
divisions  were  near  Avesnes,  twenty-five  miles  south  of 
Mons,  preparing  to  march  north-east  towards  Beaumont — 
Cousolre,  in  rear  of  the  gap  between  the  Allied  Armies.1 
The  British  on  the  Mons  Canal,  therefore,  were  some  nine 
miles  ahead  of  the  main  French  line  ;  and  the  1st  Division, 
when  it  came  up  to  its  destination  about  Grand  Reng, 
would  be  fully  nine  miles  from  the  left  flank  of  the  French 
XVIII.  Corps.  To  fill  the  gap  there  were  no  troops  avail- 
able, except  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  and  Valabregue's  two 
Reserve  divisions ;  unless  we  include  Sordet's  cavalry, 
which  was  still  in  the  neighbourhood,  though  moving  fast 
away  from  it.  Further,  nine  miles  of  the  British  line 
from  the  Mons  Salient  to  Rouveroy  (9  miles  south-east 
of  Mons),  was  held  only  by  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade. 

The  enemy's  main  bodies  were  now  reported  at  various 
points  within  dangerous  proximity.  Twenty  thousand 
men  of  all  arms,  presumed  to  be  part  of  the  German 
VII.  Corps,  were  known  to  be  moving  southward  from 
Luttre,  about  eight  miles  north  of  Charleroi.  Thirty 
thousand  more  (supposed  to  be  the  IV.  or  the  ///.  Corps, 
but  actually  the  VII.)  were  reported  about  Nivelles, 
and  the  IX.  Corps  was  bivouacking  for  the  night  south- 
east of  Soignies.2  Yet  another  large  body  of  all  arms, 
reckoned  to  be  another  corps,  the  //.,  was  moving  west 
through  Ladeuse,  about  five  miles  south  of  Ath.  Further, 
the  German  9th  Cavalry  Division  had  been  identified,  with 
its  head  at  Peruwelz,  and  other  cavalry,  probably  divi- 
sional, was  known  to  be  north  of  Mons.  The  inhabitants 
of  Les  Herbieres  informed  the  Scottish  Borderers  that 
twelve  Uhlans  had  ridden  into  their  village  on  the  21st, 
and  that  some  two  hundred  Germans  were  close  at  hand. 
Finally  an  air  report  was  brought  into  Maubeuge,  and  at 
once  taken  personally  to  G.H.Q.  by  Brigadier-General  Sir 
David  Henderson,  that  a  long  column,  estimated  at  a 
corps,  was  moving  westward  on  the  Brussels — Ninove 
road,  and  at  the  latter  town  had  turned  south-west  towards 
Grammont.  This  was  later  identified  as  the  German  //. 
Corps  of  the  First  Army.  There  were  also  signs  of  a  strong 

1  See  Note  on  the  movements  of  General  Valabregue's  Group  at  end  of 
Chapter  V. 

2  Von  Kluck  and  von  Billow  had  corps  in  the  positions  stated,  but  the 
British  reports,  good  though  they  were,  did  not  on  this  occasion  identify 
all  the  corps  exactly,  thus  Kluck' s  map  shows  the  VII.  Corps  of  the  Second 
Army  marching  through  Nivelles  ;  the  III.  and  IV.  were  between  Soignies 
and  Ath. 


force  moving  down  the  great  chaussee  on  Soignies ;  it  was  22  Aug. 
endeavouring  to  hide  itself  from  observation  by  making 
use  of  the  trees  that  bordered  the  road. 

As  the  situation  disclosed  itself,  the  British  Commander- 
in-Chief,  whilst  still  hoping  that  offensive  action  might  be 
possible,  began  to  realize  the  necessity,  in  view  of  the 
isolated  position  of  his  force,  of  being  prepared  for  any 
kind  of  move,  either  in  advance  or  retreat.  The  air  report 
that  a  corps  was  moving  on  the  road  Brussels — Ninove— 
Grammont  seemed  to  give  warning  of  a  very  ambitious 
enveloping  movement  to  the  south-west.  In  any  case 
von  Kluck's  advance  made  it  impossible  to  expect  that 
the  British  would  be  able  to  reach  Soignies  without  opposi- 
tion. On  the  evening  of  the  22nd  Sir  John  French  held 
a  conference  at  Le  Cateau,  at  which  the  Chief  of  the 
General  Staff,  Sir  Archibald  Murray,  and  the  G.S.O. 
in  charge  of  Intelligence,  Colonel  G.  M.  W.  Macdonogh, 
were  present,  with  the  Brigadier  -  Generals,  G.S.  of  the 
I.  and  II.  Corps,  and  the  G.S.O.  1  of  the  Cavalry  Division. 
The  position  of  the  Germans  as  it  was  then  known  was 
explained  and  discussed.  At  the  close,  the  Commander- 
in-Chief  announced  his  decision  that,  owing  to  the  retreat 
of  the  French  Fifth  Army,  the  British  offensive  would  not 
take  place.  To  a  request  of  General  Lanrezac,  brought  by 
a  staff  officer  about  11  P.M.,  that  the  English  should  attack 
the  flank  of  the  German  columns  which  were  pressing  him 
back  from  the  Sambre,  Sir  John  French  felt  that  it  was 
impossible  to  accede  ;  but  he  agreed  to  remain  in  his 
position  on  the  canal  for  twenty-four  hours.  At  the 
suggestion  of  the  II.  Corps,  he  ordered  the  I.  Corps  to 
take  over  by  6  A.M.  on  the  23rd  the  portion  of  the  outpost 
line  of  the  II.  Corps  which  lay  east  of  Mons.  Accordingly 
the  2nd  Division  which,  as  we  have  seen,  had  remained  in 
its  original  billets,  moved  forward  at  3  A.M.  on  the  23rd, 
but  was  too  late  to  relieve  the  II.  Corps  before  fighting 

THE  B.E.F.  ON  23RD  AUGUST  1914 

From  the  many  sources  of  information  now  available, 
it  would  appear  that  the  fog  of  war  on  the  German  side, 
in  spite  of  superiority  in  aircraft,  was  very  much  more 
intense  than  on  the  British. 

In   the    first   place,    von  Kluck   laboured   under  •  the 


misapprehension l  that  the  B.E.F.  had  landed  at  Ostend, 
Dunkirk  and  Calais.  The  Great  General  Staff  had  expected 
that  it  would  do  so  ;  2  but  the  measures  taken  by  the 
French  to  prevent  espionage  were  so  good  that  no  informa- 
tion as  to  the  real  landing-places  reached  the  Germans. 
Thus  their  accounts  say  :  3  "As  regards  the  arrival  of  this 
"  Force  [the  B.E.F.],  the  information  was  unreliable,  and  as 
"  regards  its  line  of  advance,  there  was  none  whatever. 
"  Even  a  message  from  the  Supreme  Command  dated 
"  20th  August,  which  arrived  at  First  Army  Headquarters 
"  on  the  evening  of  the  21st,  ran  :  '  Disembarkation  of  the 
"  '  English  at  Boulogne  and  their  employment  from  direction 
"  '  of  Lille  must  be  reckoned  with.  The  opinion  here,  how- 
"  *  ever,  is  that  large  disembarkations  have  not  yet  taken 
"  '  place.  .  .  .'  It  was  only  on  the  22nd  August  that  an 
"  English  cavalry  squadron  was  heard  of  at  Casteau,  6  miles 
"  north-east  of  Mons,4  and  an  aeroplane  of  the  English  5th 
"  Flying  Squadron  which  had  gone  up  from  Maubeuge  was 
"  shot  down.  The  presence  of  the  English  on  our  front 
"  was  thus  established,  although  nothing  as  regards  their 
"  strength." 

What  is  more  convincing  perhaps  than  even  this  state- 
ment is  the  opening  paragraph  of  von  Kluck's  operation 
orders  for  the  23rd  August,5  issued  at  Hal  at  8.30  P.M.  on 
the  22nd ;  all  that  he  could  tell  his  corps  commanders  was  : 
"  A  squadron  of  British  cavalry  was  encountered  to-day 
"  at  Casteau,  north-east  of  Mons,  and  a  British  aeroplane, 
"  coming  from  Maubeuge,  was  shot  down  near  Enghien." 
Von  Kluck's  uncertainty,  however,  was  still  great,  and  he 
was  so  obsessed  with  the  idea  that  the  British  would  appear 
on  his  flank  that  on  23rd  August,  the  actual  day  of  the  battle 
of  Mons,  hearing  that  troops  were  detraining  at  Tournai, 
he  halted  his  Army  for  two  hours — 8.30  to  10.30  A.M. — and 
prepared  to  wheel  westwards.  In  von  Kluck's  own  words  : 
"  A  report  reached  Army  Headquarters  that  a  detrainment 
"  of  troops  had  been  in  progress  at  Tournai  since  the 
"  previous  day.  It  seemed  therefore  not  unlikely  that  strong 
"  British  forces  were  being  sent  forward  through  Lille. 

1  Kluck,  p.  33.  •  Kuhl,  Generalstab,  p.  91. 

8  Von  Zwehl  writing  in  the  Militar  Wochenblatt,  Nos.  35,  36,  37  and 
38  of  September  1919,  in  an  article  entitled  "  The  Operations  of  Field 
Marshal  French  against  the  First  Army  and  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps" 
Kluck,  p.  34,  and  Biilow,  p.  21,  also  give  the  Supreme  Command  me 

4  This  belonged  to  the  4th  Dragoon  Guards,  as  mentioned  at 
beginning  of  Chapter  II. 
6  Kluck,  p.  34. 


"  The   heads   of  the  advanced  guards  of  the  corps  were  22  Aug. 

"therefore  halted  on  the  road  Leuze — Mons — Binche  to   1914-. 

"  enable  preparations  to  be  made  for  the  Army  to  wheel 

"  westwards.   .   .   .  Eventually,   however,  it  was  reported 

"  that  only  a  French  infantry  brigade  was  at  Toumai,  and 

"  that  it  was  retiring  on  Lille.     The  Army,  therefore,  con- 

"  tinued  to  advance." 

The  German  General  Staff  monograph  "  Mons  "  adds 
that  by  the  detrainment  at  Tournai  "  the  still  unsolved 
"  question  as  to  where  the  British  principal  forces  would  be 
"  met  was  made  yet  more  difficult  to  answer.  In  relation  to 
"  the  landing-places  of  the  British,  their  detrainment  near 
"  Lille  was  not  unlikely."  It  continues  that,  in  the  course 
of  the  forenoon,  information  as  to  the  presence  of  the 
B.E.F.  on  the  Canal  became  more  and  more  definite. 
"  A  captured  private  letter  announced  the  presence  of  a 
"  strong  British  Army  south  of  Mons.  The  nearest  division 
"  of  the  Second  Army,  the  13th  Division,  reported  that  a 
"  British  cavalry  brigade  had  been  driven  from  Pe"ronnes 
"  in  a  south-westerly  direction.1  ...  In  the  early  morning, 
"  aeroplane  reconnaissance  had  given  no  results  in  conse- 
"  quence  of  the  prevailing  fog." 

On  the  arrival  of  the  2nd  Battalion  of  the  12th  Grenadier 
Regiment  (III.  Corps),  at  Baudour,  2  miles  north  of  the 
Mons  Canal,  about  noon  on  the  23rd  August,  the  cavalry 
reported2  that  there  was  no  enemy  within  fifty  miles, 
and  shortly  afterwards  two  Hussars,  covered  with  blood, 
galloped  past  shouting  that  the  enemy  had  occupied  the 
line  of  the  Canal  in  front.  A  third  limped  past,  dragging 
his  blood-stained  saddle,  and  reported  "  in  front,  in  the 
village,  there  they  are  !  " 

The  German  General  Staff  account  states  that  "  recon- 
"  noitring  parties  were  unable  to  reach  the  bridges  [of  the 
"  Canal].  Whenever  they  tried  to  penetrate  between  the 
"  numerous  widely  scattered  farms  .  .  .  they  were  received 
"  with  fire  from  invisible  riflemen."  It  was  thus  in  complete 
ignorance  of  the  strength  of  the  British  that  von  Kluck 
advanced  to  the  Canal ;  as  he  says,  there  "  might  have 
been  only  cavalry  "  in  front  of  him.3 

1  It  was  two  squadrons  of  the  Royal  Scots  Greys.     See  p.  53. 

2  "  Bloem,"  p.  116. 

3  Just  as  von  Biilow  on  the  22nd  August  at  Charleroi  thought  that  he 
was  only  opposed  by  cavalry  and  weak  infantry  detachments  when  he  had 
the  French  Fifth  Army  in  front  of  him.     Biilow,  pp.  21,  22. 



(See  Sketches  2  &  3  ;   Maps  5,  6,  &  7) 

Map  6.  THE  ground  on  which  the  British  Army  had  taken  up  its 
position  is  a  narrow  belt  of  coalfield  which  extends  roughly 
for  rather  more  than  twenty  miles  westwards  from  Maurage 
(six  miles  east  of  Mons)  along  the  Mons  Canal,  and  has  an 
average  breadth,  from  the  Canal  southward,  of  two  miles. 
South  of  this  belt  the  country  gradually  rises  to  a  great 
tract  of  rolling  chalk  downs,  cut  into  by  many  streams  and 
with  numerous  outlying  spurs.  Every  inch  of  this  territory 
has  in  bygone  days  seen  the  passage  of  British  armies; 
and  name  after  name  is  found  upon  British  colours,  or  is 
familiar  in  British  military  history. 

On  the  ground  occupied  by  the  I.  Corps — that  is  to  say, 
roughly  from  Givry  northward  to  Spiennes,  thence  west- 
ward almost  to  Paturages  and  thence  southward  again  to 
Quevy  le  Petit — the  chalk  comes  to  the  surface  ;  and 
there  is  even  a  little  outcrop  of  it  within  the  salient  or  loop 
of  the  Canal  around  Mons.  This  small  area  is  cut  up  by 
wire  fences,  market  gardens,  and  the  other  artificial 
features  which  form  the  outskirts  of  a  provincial  town  ; 
and  it  is  noteworthy  that  across  this  tangle  of  enclosures 
no  fewer  than  seven  different  roads  diverge  from  Mons 
north-east  and  north-west  to  as  many  bridges.  At  the 
base  of  the  salient  the  ground  rises  gradually  from  north 
to  south,  for  fifteen  hundred  to  two  thousand  yards,  till 
it  culminates  in  three  well-marked  features.  The  first  of 
these  is  Mount  Erebus,  a  round  hill  immediately  to  the 
south  of  Mons  ;  the  second  is  a  great  whale-backed  hump, 
about  a  thousand  yards  long  from  north  to  south,  very 
steep  upon  every  side,  except  the  eastern,  and  crowned  by 



two  summits,  Mont  Panisel  on  the  north  and  Bois  la  Haut  23  Aug. 
on  the  south,  the  whole  called  by  the  latter  name.  The  1914- 
third  is  the  height  known  as  Hill  93,  which  lies  south- 
east of  Bois  la  Haut  and  is  divided  from  it  by  a  shallow 
valley.  This  last  hill  was  of  considerable  tactical  import- 
ance, since  from  it  and  from  Bois  La  Haut  observation  and 
cross-fire  could  be  brought  to  bear  upon  the  ground  east- 
ward about  St.  Symphorien.  But  Bois  la  Haut  was  in 
parts  thickly  wooded,  and  consequently  from  its  northern 
end,  where  there  were  hospital  buildings,  there  was  little 
field  of  fire. 

West  of  Mons  the  line  of  the  Canal  is  straight,  and  the 
actual  borders  are  clear  ;  the  ground  on  both  sides  of  it 
is  cut  up  by  a  network  of  artificial  water-courses,  chequered 
by  osier-beds,  for  a  breadth  of  a  mile  or  more.  But  the 
opening  up  of  the  coal-measures  has  turned  much  of  the 
country  immediately  south  of  this  watery  land  into  the 
hideous  confusion  of  a  mining  district.  The  space  occupied 
by  the  II.  Corps  in  particular,  within  the  quadrangle 
Mons — Frameries — Dour — Boussu,  is  practically  one  huge 
unsightly  village,  traversed  by  a  vast  number  of  devious 
cobbled  roads  which  lead  from  no  particular  starting-point 
to  no  particular  destination,  and  broken  by  pit-heads  and 
colossal  slag-heaps,  often  over  a  hundred  feet  high.  It  is, 
in  fact,  a  close  and  blind  country,  such  as  no  army  had  yet 
been  called  upon  to  fight  in  against  a  civilised  enemy  in  a 
great  campaign. 


At  5.30  A.M.,  the  Corps  and  Cavalry  Division  com- 
manders met  the  Commander-in-Chief  in  the  Chateau  at 
Sars  la  Bruyere,  when  orders  were  issued  for  the  outpost 
line  to  be  strengthened,  and  for  the  bridges  over  the  Mons 
Canal  to  be  prepared  for  demolition.  The  conference  over, 
the  Field-Marshal,  at  9.15  A.M.  proceeded  to  Valenciennes. 
The  19th  Infantry  Brigade  had  just  detrained  there  and 
was  marching  to  occupy  the  left  flank  of  the  outpost  line 
on  the  Canal.  This  would  thus  extend  nearly  to  Conde, 
where  it  was  understood  from  a  French  Staff  officer  that 
Territorial  troops  would  take  it  up.1  The  local  situation, 
therefore,  seemed  satisfactory.  For  the  rest,  there  was 
intelligence  of  fighting  between  German  cavalry  and  French 

1  The  84th  Territorial  Division  subsequently  arrived. 

64  MONS 

Territorial  infantry  about  Tournai,  though  no  information 
as  to  its  results. 

Sketch  3.  In  describing  the  general  disposition  of  the  troops  it 
Map  7.  must  be  remembered  that,  as  the  Army  had  halted  whilst 
in  the  course  of  wheeling  or  forming  to  face  towards 
Nivelles,  the  front  of  the  I.  Corps  was  already  turned  north- 
eastward, whereas  the  II.,  upon  the  wheeling  flank,  still 
mainly  faced  to  the  north.  The  general  front,  therefore, 
formed  an  obtuse  angle,  the  I.  Corps  being  on  the  right  half 
of  the  south-eastern  arm,  and  the  II.  Corps  round  the  apex 
and  along  the  western  arm.  The  south-eastern  arm  from 
Peissant  to  Mons  was  about  ten  miles  long,  and  the  arm 
along  the  Canal  from  Mons  to  Conde*,  seventeen  miles.  The 
I.  Corps  was  extended,  roughly  speaking,  from  the  Sambre 
to  the  Haine  ;  the  1st  Division  being  on  the  right,  with 
the  3rd  Infantry  Brigade  in  front  between  Peissant  and 
Haulchin  (about  four  miles) ;  the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade  in 
rear  of  its  right  at  Grand  Reng  and  Vieux  Reng ;  and  the 
2nd  Infantry  Brigade  in  rear  of  its  left  at  Villers  Sire  Nicole 
and  Rouveroy.  The  2nd  Division  was  on  its  way  to  take  up 
the  line  on  the  left  of  the  1st  Division  from  Haulchin  to 
Harmignies  (another  four  miles),  and  meanwhile  the  vacant 
place  was  filled  by  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade.  The  ground 
in  front  of  the  right  of  the  outpost  line  of  the  3rd  Division 
was  commanded  by  the  great  bluff  of  Bois  la  Haut.  This 
hill  was  reconnoitred  for  occupation  by  the  batteries  of  the 
XL.  Brigade  R.F.A.,  which  were  billeted  immediately 
behind  it  at  Mesvin,  and  was  secured  at  night  by  sending 
forward  the  2/Royal  Irish  Regiment,  of  the  8th  Infantry 
Brigade,  to  connect  with  the  I.  Corps  at  Harmignies,  and 
hold  the  villages  of  Villers  St.  Ghislain  and  St.  Symphorien. 
The  1 /Gordon  Highlanders  and  2/Royal  Scots  of  the 
8th  Infantry  Brigade  were  in  position  near  the  Harmignies 
road  from  Hill  93  to  the  north-east  corner  of  Bois  la  Haut. 
The  front  from  Bois  la  Haut  northwards  to  the  apex  of 
the  Mons  Salient,  two  miles,  was  held  as  an  outpost  line  by 
the  4/Middlesex.  Rough  entrenchments  had  been  thrown 
up  by  them  during  the  afternoon  of  the  22nd,  but  were 
still  unfinished  when  darkness  fell.  On  the  left  of  the 
4/Middlesex,  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade  held  the  line  of  the 
Canal  from  the  Nimy  bridges  on  the  western  face  of  the 
Mons  Salient,  as  far  as  the  bridge  of  Mariette,  six  miles, 
with  the  4/Royal  Fusiliers,  1 /Royal  Scots  Fusiliers  and 
1 /Fifth  Fusiliers.  The  remaining  battalion,  the  1 /Lincoln- 
shire, was  a  mile  south-west  of  Mons  at  Cuesmes.  The  7th 


Infantry  Brigade  was  in  reserve  about  Ciply,  two  miles  23  Aug. 
south  of  Mons.    The  rest  of  the  artillery  of  the  3rd  Division   1914> 
was  mostly  held  for  the  present  in  reserve — XXIII.  Brigade 
R.F.A.  north  of  Ciply,  and  XLII.  R.F.A.,  together  with 
the  48th  Heavy  Battery,  at  Nouvelles  (1J  miles  east  of 
Ciply).     The  XXX.  Howitzer  Brigade  was  still  on  its  way 
from  Valenciennes. 

Passing  westward  to  the  5th  Division,  the  13th  Infantry 
Brigade  was  posted,  with  a  three-mile  front,  on  the  left  of  the 
9th,  the  1 /Royal  West  Kent  covering  the  bridges  that  span 
the  Canal  immediately  east  of  St.  Ghislain,  with  four  guns  of 
the  120th  Field  Battery  in  close  support  on  the  tow-path. 
On  the  left  of  the  West  Kents,  who  had  dug  themselves 
excellent  trenches  by  the  railway  bridge,  the  2/Scottish 
Borderers,  with  the  machine  guns  of  the  2/ Yorkshire  Light 
Infantry,  occupied  the  Canal  up  to,  but  not  including,  the 
railway  bridge  at  Les  Herbieres,  with  one  company  en- 
trenched on  the  road  north  of  that  bridge.  The  two  remain- 
ing battalions  of  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade  were  held  in 
reserve  in  St.  Ghislain,  in  rear  of  the  centre  of  the  brigade 

On  the  left  of  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade,  the  14th 
occupied  the  line  of  the  Canal  from  the  railway  bridge  of 
Les  Herbieres  westward  to  Pommeroeul  road  bridge,  a 
front  of  2j  miles.  The  I/East  Surrey  were  on  the  right, 
holding  the  railway  bridge  itself,  with  one  company  pushed 
across  to  the  north  bank.  From  the  foot  bridge  south  of 
La  Hamaide,  the  1 /Cornwall  Light  Infantry  prolonged  the 
front  to  Pommeroeul  bridge.  Here  again  a  platoon,  together 
with  the  machine-gun  section,  was  sent  across  the  Canal  to 
form  a  bridgehead  upon  the  north  bank.  The  machine  guns 
were  posted  to  sweep  the  straight  length  of  road  towards 
Ville  Pommeroeul ;  but  a  clear  view  northward  was 
obstructed  by  rolling  stock  on  the  railway,  which  crosses 
the  road  about  a  mile  to  north  of  the  Canal.  As  the  Haine 
stream,  which  was  unfordable  and  had  few  bridges,  passed 
about  a  mile  behind  this  part  of  the  line,  the  Cornwall  Light 
Infantry  had  orders  to  hold  the  Canal  as  an  advanced 
position  only,  and  to  retire  when  necessary  to  a  second 
position,  which  the  15th  Infantry  Brigade  was  directed  to 
prepare  behind  the  Haine.  The  2 /Suffolk  and  2 /Man- 
chester, the  remaining  battalions  of  the  14th  Infantry 
Brigade,  were  in  reserve.  The  15th  Infantry  Brigade  was 
divided,  part  preparing  a  position  on  the  Haine,  with  the 
rest  in  reserve  further  to  the  rear  near  Dour.  From 

VOL.  I  F 

66  MONS 

Pommeroeul  westward  the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade  was  re- 
sponsible for  the  two  remaining  crossing-places  east  of 
Conde,  at  Lock  5  and  St.  Aybert,  until  the  19th  Infantry 
Brigade  should  come  up,  and  these  two  points  were  accord- 
ingly occupied  by  the  Carabiniers.  All  troops  were 
warned  to  expect  an  attack  early  next  morning. 

The  selection  of  positions  along  the  part  of  the  line  held 
by  the  5th  Division  was  a  matter  of  the  greatest  difficulty, 
the  ground  being  a  wilderness  of  deep  ditches,  straggling 
buildings,  casual  roads  and  tracks,  and  high  slag-heaps. 
These  last  seemed  to  offer  points  of  vantage,  which  were 
generally  found  to  be  non-existent  when  their  summits  had 
been  explored,  as  they  were  commanded  by  some  other 
slag-heap  ;  while  certain  of  them,  which  seemed  to  promise 
all  that  could  be  desired,  were  found  to  be  so  hot  that  men 
could  not  stand  on  them.  The  artillery  was  more  em- 
barrassed even  than  the  infantry  :  the  officers  had  great 
difficulty  in  finding  suitable  positions  for  batteries  or  even 
for  single  guns,  and  were  equally  at  a  loss  to  discover  good 
observation  posts.  The  general  policy  .followed  was  to 
push  batteries  or  sections  of  batteries  up  to  the  infantry 
for  close  defence,  and  to  keep  the  mass  of  the  artillery,  and 
particularly  the  heavy  battery,  on  the  left,  where  the  guns 
could  coverall  open  ground  in  anticipation  of  a  turning  move- 
ment round  that  flank.  Altogether,  the  ground  was  such 
as  to  baffle  the  most  skilful  and  sanguine  of  gunners  on 
the  British  side.  Fortunately,  on  the  enemy  side,  the  con- 
ditions were  almost  identical ;  and,  except  on  the  east, 
where  the  ground  was  more  open,  the  Germans  could  make 
little  use  of  their  tremendous  superiority  of  numbers ;  for 
they  were  about  to  match  eight  divisions  against  four,  and 
actually  in  the  infantry  fight  six  against  two  extended 
along  a  front  of  13  miles.  In  fact,  the  line  of  the  II.  Corps 
was  so  thin  that  it  was  little  better  than  an  outpost  line,  a 
chain  of  small  groups,  lying  on  the  Canal  bank,  almost  in- 
visible, as  is  shown  in  a  photograph  taken  by  a  machine- 
gun  officer  during  the  battle  from  his  flanking  gun.  Not 
without  good  reason  was  provision  made  for  a  retrenchment 
across  the  rear  of  the  Salient  and  for  occupying  a  position 
in  rear  of  the  Canal,  roughly  Frameries — Wasmes — Dour, 
should  a  strong  attack  develop. 


(a)  The  Salient 

The  morning  of  Sunday  the  23rd  broke  in  mist  and  rain,  23  Aug. 
which,  about  10  A.M.,  cleared  off  and  gave  place  to  fair  1914- 
weather.  Church  bells  rang,  and  the  inhabitants  of  the  sketches 
villages  near  the  Canal  were  seen  in  their  best  attire  going  2  &  3 ; 
to  worship  as  if  war  was  utterly  distant  from  them.  Trains  ¥^Lps  5 
were  running  towards  Mons  crowded  with  the  usual 
holiday  makers.  The  mounted  troops  of  both  armies  were 
however  early  astir.  Those  of  the  British  1st  and  2nd 
Divisions,  reconnoitring  east  of  Mons  towards  the  bridges 
of  Binche,  Bray,  Havre  and  Obourg,  soon  encountered 
small  parties  of  the  enemy.  Near  Obourg  they  were 
pressed  back,  and  at  6  A.M.  the  German  cavalry  exchanged 
shots  with  the  4/Middlesex.  About  the  same  time,  other 
parties  of  German  horse  approached  the  Royal  Fusiliers 
in  the  apex  of  the  Salient,  and  two  officers  of  the  Ger- 
man 3rd  Hussars,  the  corps  cavalry  of  the  ///.  Corps, 
were  made  prisoners.  Another  patrol,  towards  Nimy, 
came  in  sight  of  the  Scots  Fusiliers,  who  killed  one  man, 
and  identified  his  uniform  as  that  of  the  cavalry  regiment 
of  the  IX.  Corps.  Further  west,  two  German  patrols  were 
caught  in  ambush,  near  Ville  Pommeroeul  between  6.30  and 
7  A.M.,  and  two  prisoners  were  taken,  the  one  a  Dragoon, 
the  other  a  Hussar  ;  this  indicated  the  presence  of  two 
more  regiments,  both  of  the  German  9th  Cavalry  Division. 
The  mounted  troops  of  the  British  5th  Division  crossed 
the  Canal  near  the  posts  of  the  Scottish  Borderers  and  of 
the  West  Kents  ;  and  both  battalions  pushed  a  reserve 
company  forward  to  secure  their  retreat.  That  of  the 
West  Kents,  A  Company,  advanced  to  the  road-junction 
south  of  the  village  of  Tertre  ;  and  that  of  the  Scottish 
Borderers  to  a  pond  about  half  a  mile  north  of  Les  Herbieres 
road  bridge.  Each  side  was  feeling  for  the  other  in  ex- 
pectation of  the  coming  shock. 

There  could  be  little  doubt  where  the  first  blow  would 
fall.  The  Germans  were  completing  a  wheel  from  east  to 
south  ;  and  immediately  opposite  to  the  eastern,  or  stand- 
ing flank  of  von  Kluck's  Army  lay  the  Mons  Salient. 
Before  9  A.M.  German  guns  were  in  position  on  the  high 
ground  north  of  the  Canal,  and  very  soon  shells  were 
bursting  thickly  along  the  whole  line  of  the  Middlesex  and 
the  Royal  Fusiliers,  One  German  battery  commander 

68  MONS 

boldly  unlimbered  his  guns  in  the  open,  and  began  firing 
at  a  range  of  1,500  yards ;  but  he  was  speedily  compelled  to 
shift  his  ground  by  the  machine  guns  of  the  Middlesex. 
By  9  A.M.  German  infantry  was  pressing  on  to  engage 
the  Middlesex  about  Obourg  and,  as  the  hostile  movement 
from  north-east  to  south-west  developed  itself,  troops, 
all  apparently  of  the  IX.  Corps,  gradually  spread  around 
the  entire  curve  of  the  Salient  from  Obourg  to  Nimy. 
By  10  A.M.  the  company  in  Obourg  was  heavily  engaged 
and,  indeed,  hard  pressed ;  and,  shortly  afterwards,  the 
machine-gun  section  of  the  Royal  Irish  joined  that  of  the 
Middlesex.  Meanwhile,  the  Royal  Fusiliers  were  cease- 
lessly shooting  down  Germans,  who  at  first  came  on  in 
heavy  masses,  but,  being  caught  by  the  rapid  fire  of  the 
Fusiliers  in  front  and  by  the  machine  guns  of  the  Middlesex 
and  Royal  Irish  in  flank,  soon  abandoned  this  costly  method 
of  attack.  They  then  began  working  across  the  front  in 
small  parties,  in  order  to  form  for  a  fresh  effort  under 
cover  of  the  woods.  The  British  troops  in  the  Salient  had 
orders  to  make  "  a  stubborn  resistance  "  ;  the  Middlesex 
and  the  Royal  Fusiliers,  therefore,  defended  themselves 
with  tenacity,  and  until  past  11  A.M.  were  still  holding  their 
original  positions. 

(b)  The  Canal  West  of  Mons 

Meanwhile,  as  the  southward  wheel  of  von  Kluck's 
Army  progressed,  the  attack  gradually  spread  westward 
along  the  line  of  the  Canal.  The  right  of  the  German  IX. 
Corps  did  not  appear  to  extend  beyond  Nimy ; x  and  it  was 
not  until  11  A.M.  that  the  ///.  Corps,  which  was  next  to 
the  right  of  it,  came  into  action  about  the  bridge  of 
Jemappes,  2  miles  west  of  Mons.  German  shells  fell  in 
Jemappes  itself,  in  rear  of  the  Scots  Fusiliers ;  but  the 
infantry  almost  simultaneously  advanced  in  heavy  lines. 
The  forward  post  of  the  Scots  Fusiliers  north  of  the  Canal 
was  thereupon  withdrawn,  and,  as  the  Germans  came 
nearer,  they  were  met  by  a  fire  of  rifles  and  machine  guns 
which  effectually  checked  their  progress.  After  a  pause  they 
came  on  again,  taking  shelter  behind  the  northern  bank 
of  the  Canal,  and  actually  closed  to  within  200  yards  of  the 
bridge  at  Lock  2,  west  of  Jemappes,  but  were  compelled 
by  the  accuracy  of  the  British  fire  once  more  to  fall  back.2 

1  This  is  now  known  to  be  correct  (see  Sketch  3  in  "  Mons  "). 

2  Hauptniann  (Professor)  Heubner,  of   the  20th  Infantry  Regiment, 
5th  Division,  III.  Corps,  who  witnessed  the  attack  at  Jemappes,  in  his 


At  Marietta,  3 \  miles  west  of  Mons,  still  in  the  9th  23  Aug. 
Infantry  Brigade  area,  German  shells  found  the  bridge  1914- 
immediately,  and  a  column  of  infantry  in  fours  came  swing- 
ing down  a  country  road  immediately  east  of  it.  It  was 
promptly  stopped  by  the  fire  of  a  small  party,  under  a 
corporal,  which  occupied  a  house  in  the  angle  between 
this  road  and  the  waterway.  The  enemy  then  tried  an 
advance  down  the  main  road  ;  but  this  had  been  obstructed 
by  a  wire  entanglement  immediately  north  and  west  of  the 
bridge,  and  by  a  barricade  immediately  south  of  it ;  and 
the  Fifth  Fusiliers  were  well  and  skilfully  disposed,  under 
good  shelter,  on  both  flanks  of  the  road,  both  in  advance 
and  in  rear  of  the  bridge.  Under  a  withering  fire  from 
three  sides,  the  Germans  pressed  on  to  the  wire,  only  to 
be  brought  to  a  standstill  there,  and  then  driven  back  with 
heavy  loss. 

They  now  brought  up  two  field  guns  within  half  a  mile 
of  the  Canal,  and  opened  fire  with  high-explosive  shell  upon 
the  defenders  of  the  bridge  ;  not  without  effect,  for  a  shell 
bursting  in  the  occupied  house  on  the  east  side  of  the  road 
killed  the  whole  of  the  little  garrison.  But,  instead  of 
grey-coated  soldiers,  a  number  of  little  Belgian  girls  came 
down  the  road,  and  the  Fifth  Fusiliers  naturally  ceased 
their  fire.1  Thereupon,  the  Germans  swarmed  forward 
and,  flooding  over  to  the  western  side  of  the  main  road, 
were  able  to  establish  themselves  within  200  yards  of  the 
Canal,  whence  they  could  bring  an  oblique  fire  to  bear  upon 
the  defenders  of  the  barricade.  The  advanced  party  of  the 
Fifth  on  the  north  side  of  the  bridge  was  then  withdrawn ; 
but  the  Germans  were  still  far  from  being  masters  of  the 
passage  of  the  Canal  at  Mariette ;  and  the  Fifth  Fusiliers 
for  the  present  held  their  own  with  no  great  difficulty  and 
without  serious  loss. 

Further  to  the  left  in  front  of  St.  Ghislain,  A  Com- 
pany of  the  West  Kents,  at  the  cross  roads  south  of  Tertre, 
which  was  in  support  of  the  5th  Divisional  Mounted  Troops, 
,     was  warned  by  the  cyclists  of  the  advance  of  the  enemy  in 

book  "  Unter  Emmich  vor  Liittich,  Unter  Kluck  vor  Paris,"  pp.  69  and  74, 
speaks  of  the  "  numerous  wounded  "  of  the  regiment  which  attempted 
to  storm  the  railway  and  factory  ;  and  at  the  end  of  the  day  says  "  that 
they  [the  English],  in  any  case,  fought  bravely  and  obstinately  is  proved 
by  the  heavy  losses  that  our  German  troops  suffered  here." 

1  Evidence  of  Captain  B.  T.  St.  John,  commanding  the  company  of 
I  the  Fifth  Fusiliers  which  held  Mariette  Bridge.  It  is  not  suggested  that 
the  enemy  drove  them  deliberately  in  front  of  him.  In  many  cases 
inhabitants  were  caught  between  the  two  hostile  lines. 

70  MONS 

force.  This  company  had  found  a  fair  field  of  fire  ;  but  the 
line  of  retreat  to  the  Canal  was  difficult,  the  ground  being 
cut  up  by  many  deep  ditches  and  barbed  wire  fences.  As 
far  as  time  permitted,  passages  were  cut  through  the 
wire,  so  that  during  its  retirement  the  company  might  not 
mask  the  fire  of  the  main  body  on  the  Canal ;  but  the 
preparations  were  scarcely  completed  before  a  small  party 
of  the  cyclists  came  at  top  speed  down  the  road  from 
Tertre  and  reported  that  the  Germans  had  brought  up  guns 
to  drive  them  from  the  village.  The  leading  German 
infantry  regiment,  the  Brandenburg  Grenadiers  of  the  5th 
Division  of  the  ///.  Corps,  had,  in  fact,  moved  southward 
upon  Tertre  from  Baudour,  and  the  Fusilier  battalion, 
which  was  at  its  head,  had  encountered  considerable  re- 
sistance from  the  cyclists.  Five  minutes  after  this  alarm 
had  reached  the  West  Kent  company  (that  is  to  say  at 
about  11.10  A.M.),  this  Fusilier  battalion  debouched  from 
Tertre  and  moved  southward,  the  bulk  of  the  men  being  in 
massed  formation  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  road  to  St. 
Ghislain,  with  parties  in  extended  order  upon  either  flank. 
They  were  met  by  a  shattering  fire  of  rifles  and  machine 
guns,  and  were  seen  to  suffer  heavily.  The  commander  of 
the  German  regiment  then  made  a  regular  attack  with  the 
support  of  artillery,  deploying  his  two  remaining  battalions 
to  the  right  and  left  of  the  Fusiliers.  By  the  German 
account,  the  Brandenburgers  suffered  some  loss  in  the  village 
of  Tertre  from  the  British  artillery,  presumably  from  the 
guns  of  the  120th  Battery  on  the  Canal.  Meanwhile  the 
company  commander  received  a  message  from  the  divisional 
cavalry,  a  squadron  of  the  19th  Hussars,  which  had  gone 
out  in  the  direction  of  Hautrage,  north-west  of  Tertre, 
asking  him  to  cover  its  retirement ;  and  accordingly  he 
clung  to  his  position,  while  three  German  battalions,  a 
German  battery  and  a  German  machine-gun  company  all 
came  into  action  against  him.  The  pressure  soon  became 
so  strong  that  he  began  gradually  to  withdraw  by  succession 
of  platoons,  the  men  behaving  with  the  greatest  .steadiness 
and  firing  with  great  effect  as  the  enemy  came  within 
closer  range.  The  rearmost  platoon,  in  fact,  fought  its 
way  out  with  the  Germans  within  a  hundred  yards  of  it  in 
front  and  upon  both  flanks.  Eventually  about  half  of  the 
company  rejoined  their  comrades  on  the  Canal,  the  re- 
mainder having  been  killed  or  wounded,  and  left,  in- 
evitably, to  fall  into  the  enemy's  hands.  This  latter  was 
the  fate  of  the  company  commander,  Captain  Lister, 


and  of  one  of  his  subalterns  ;   but  his  men  had  made  a  23  Aug. 
magnificent  fight  and  inflicted  far  heavier  losses  than  they   1914- 

Having  cleared  this  advanced  party  out  of  their  way, 
the  Brandenburg  Grenadiers,  covered  now  by  the  fire  of 
four  or  five  field  batteries,  swarmed  forward  over  the  maze 
of  wire  fences  and  boggy  dykes  against  the  main  positions 
of  the  West  Kents  and  the  Scottish  Borderers  on  the  Canal. 
The  four  guns  of  the  British  120th  Battery  were  soon 
compelled  to  withdraw,  apparently  about  noon  ;  *  though, 
later  on,  the  remaining  section  found  a  position  upon  a 
slag-heap,  further  to  the  south  and  east,  and  came  into 
action  with  considerable  effect.  But  the  positions  of  the 
British  infantry  were  so  well  chosen  and  concealed  that 
the  German  artillery  failed  to  discover  them,  and  hence 
the  progress  of  the  German  infantry  was  both  slow  and 
costly.  In  any  case,  the  attack  upon  the  bridge  of  St. 
Ghislain  was  stopped  while  still  three  hundred  yards  dis- 
tant from  the  Canal  by  the  accurate  fire  of  the  West  Kents 
and  the  machine  guns  of  the  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry, 
and  the  half  company  of  the  Scottish  Borderers,  on  the 
left  of  the  bridge,  who  all  alike  had  excellent  targets,  and 
took  advantage  of  them  to  the  full,  with  little  loss  to 
themselves.  The  Germans  imagined  that  they  were 
everywhere  opposed  by  machine  guns  only,  not  realizing 
the  intensity  of  British  rapid  fire.2 

Meanwhile  in  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade  area,  towards 
noon,  the  attack  spread  westward  to  the  bridges  of  Les 
Herbieres,  where  the  52nd  Infantry  Regiment  contrived, 
with  great  skill,  to  pass  men  by  driblets  over  the  road 
into  the  reedy  marshes  alongside  the  Canal,  and  even  to 
send  one  or  two  machine  guns  with  them.  Reinforcements 
of  the  2/Duke  of  Wellington's  and  2/Yorkshire  Light 

1  See  p.  65. 

2  A   full   and   dramatic   account   of  the   attack  of  the   Brandenburg 
Grenadier  Regiment  is   given  in   "  Vormarsch,"   by  Walter  Bloem,   the 
novelist,  who  was,  as  a  reserve  officer,  commanding  one  of  the  companies. 
He  states  that  he  lost  all  five  of  his  company  officers  and  half  his  men. 
The  battalion  commander  said  to  him  in  the  evening,  *'  You  are  my  sole 
and  only  support  .  .  .  you  are  the  only  company  commander  left  in  the 
battalion    .    .    .    the   battalion  is   a  mere   wreck,  my  proud,   beautiful 
battalion  !  "     And  the  regiment  was  "  shot  down,  smashed  up — only  a 
handful  left."     Bloem  adds,  "  Our  first  battle  is  a  heavy,  unheard  of  heavy, 
defeat,  and  against  the  English,  the  English  we  laughed  at."     The  regi- 
ment was  withdrawn  a  quarter  of  a  mile  as  soon  as  it  was  dark,  and  spent 
an  anxious  night,  for,  as  the  colonel  said,  "  if  the  English  have  the  slight- 
est suspicion  of  our  condition,  and  counter-attack,  they  will  simply  run 
over  us," 

72  MONS 

Infantry  were  called  up  about  2  P.M.  in  closer  support  of 
the  Scottish  Borderers,  and  the  former  suffered  a  few 
casualties  from  shell  fire,  but  their  services  were  not  re- 
quired, for  the  German  attack  had  already  come  to  a 

At  the  railway  bridge  of  Les  Herbieres  the  Germans— 
of  the  6th  Division  of  the  ///.  Corps — began  by  bringing  a 
machine  gun  into  action  in  a  house  about  half  a  mile  from 
the  barricade  put  up  by  the  East  Surreys  (14th  Infantry 
Brigade).  This  was  instantly  silenced  by  one  of  the  East 
Surreys'  machine  guns  ;  the  enemy,  thereupon,  searched 
all  the  houses  round  the  railway  bridge  with  shell,  in  the 
hope  of  locating  it.  Then  the  Germans  tried  to  push 
forward  in  small  columns,  which  were  stopped  short  by 
rifle  and  machine-gun  fire,  which  also  dispersed  a  group  of 
German  staff  officers  a  thousand  yards  away  and  further 
to  the  east.  The  enemy  then  plied  the  East  Surreys' 
defences  with  shrapnel  and  machine-gun  fire  for  half  an 
hour,  causing  no  casualties,  but  disabling  one  machine 
gun  ;  after  which,  about  1.30  P.M.,  he  attacked  with  two 
battalions  of  the  52nd  in  mass,  advancing  across  the  open  at 
a  range  of  six  hundred  yards.  Such  a  target  was  all  that 
the  British  could  wish  for ;  another  company  of  the  East 
Surreys  had  by  this  time  joined  the  one  astride  the  embank- 
ment ;  and  three  platoons  of  the  Suffolks  had  also  come  up 
to  cover  their  left  flank,  and  their  rapid  rifle  fire,  combined 
with  long  bursts  at  selected  objects  from  the  remaining 
machine  gun  at  the  barricade,  mowed  down  large  numbers 
of  the  enemy  and  scattered  the  rest.  At  this  point, 
therefore,  the  Germans  were  decisively  repulsed  with 
very  heavy  loss,  and  with  trifling  casualties  to  the  East 

Thus  far,  to  a  point  7  miles  west  of  Mons,  the  German 
attack  had  spread  during  the  forenoon  and  the  early  after- 
noon ;  the  infantry  of  the  ///.  Corps  did  not  extend 
further  westward,  while  that  of  the  IV.  Corps  had  not  yet 
had  time  to  complete  its  wheel  to  the  south,  so  that  the 
I/Cornwall  L.I.  at  Pommeroeul  had  not  yet  come  into 


Map  7.  Throughout  the  forenoon  and  the  early  afternoon, 
that  is  to  say,  until  2  P.M.,  all  had  remained  quiet  opposite 
the  I.  Corps,  which  it  will  be  remembered  faced  north- 
east. Between  11  A.M.  and  12.30  P.M.  the  2nd  Division 

I.  CORPS  73 

had  reached  its  destination,  and  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade  23  Aug. 
took  position  on  the  left  of  the  corps  between  Vellereille  19i4. 
le  Sec  and  Harmignies,  with  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  in 
rear  of  it  about  Harveng,  and  the  5th  still  further  to  the 
rear  at  Genly  and  Bougnies.  The  3rd  and  6th  Infantry 
Brigades  therefore  now  held  the  front  of  the  I.  Corps. 
About  2  P.M.  German  guns  at  some  point  between  Binche 
and  Bray,  3£  miles  to  the  north-east,  opened  fire  upon  the 
ridge  of  Haulchin,  against  the  left  of  the  3rd  Infantry 
Brigade ;  and  about  half  an  hour  later  German  cavalry x 
was  seen  moving  across  the  British  front  north-west  from 
Bray  towards  St.  Symphorien.  The  22nd  and  70th  Field 
Batteries,  which  were  unlimbered  about  Vellereille  le  Sec, 
were  able  to  shell  these  parties  with  good  effect,  but  in  return 
were  heavily  shelled  by  batteries  which  they  were  unable 
to  locate.  The  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  was  pushed  forward 
to  extend  the  line  of  the  6th  from  Harmignies  north-west 
along  the  road  to  Mons  ;  and  various  battalions,  coming 
under  artillery  fire  in  the  course  of  the  afternoon,  suffered 
a  few  casualties.  But  heavy  firing  could  be  heard  to  the 
north  about  Mons  ;  and  about  3  P.M.  a  message  from 
Major-General  Hubert  Hamilton  reported  a  serious  attack 
on  the  3rd  Division,  and  asked  for  assistance.  Though  the 
situation  on  the  right  of  the  I.  Corps  was  not  yet  clear,  for 
the  Germans  were  still  shelling  the  3rd  Infantry  Brigade 
severely,  General  Haig  directed  that  two  battalions  of  the 
4th  (Guards)  Brigade  should  take  over  the  defence  of  Hill 
93  from  the  3rd  Division,  and  thus  afford  it  some  relief. 
The  news  brought  in  by  the  1st  and  2nd  Divisional  Cavalry 
at  3  P.M.,  that  the  French  east  of  the  I.  Corps  had  been 
obliged  to  fall  back  a  little,  might  well  cause  some  anxiety ; 
but  the  more  pressing  danger  lay  on  the  left  of  the  I.  Corps 
in  the  vicinity  of  Mons.  In  every  other  sector  of  the  line 
the  British  were  holding  their  own  with  ease,  and  were 
punishing  all  attempts  to  force  the  passage  of  the  Canal 
with  considerable  severity ;  but  in  the  Salient,  the  weakest 
and  most  critical  point  of  the  line,  the  situation  was  not 
equally  satisfactory. 


We  left  the  4/Middlesex  of  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade,  Map  7. 
and  the  4/Royal  Fusiliers  of  the  9th  between  11  A.M.  and 
noon  stubbornly  contesting  every  inch  of  ground  from 

1  Now  known  to  be  the  16th  Dragoons  (see  "  Mons  ").     . 

74  MONS 

Obourg  to  Nimy,  north-east  of  Mons.  Brigadier-General 
B.  Doran  (8th  Infantry  Brigade)  had  early  given  orders  to 
the  2/Royal  Irish,  whose  companies  had  covered  the  ground 
in  front  of  Hill  93  and  Bois  la  Haut  during  the  night, 
to  assemble  north  of  the  latter  hill,  and  by  noon  the  entire 
battalion  was  collected  there.  Just  about  that  time,  the 
Middlesex  at  Obourg,  finding  that  the  Germans  were  getting 
in  rear  of  them,  began  to  fall  back  westward  through 
the  Bois  d'Havre,  the  wood  just  south  of  Obourg. 
Simultaneously  the  Germans  began  to  shell  the  main  line 
of  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade,  south-east  of  Mons,  with 
shrapnel,  but  very  inaccurately,  for  they  could  not  see 
the  position  of  the  Royal  Scots  along  the  Harmignies — 
Mons  road,  and  the  majority  of  the  Gordon  Highlanders 
were  hidden  from  view.  Their  infantry  then  advanced 
by  rushes  obliquely  across  the  front  of  these  two  battalions, 
heading  for  Hill  93  and  offering  excellent  targets.  The 
rifles  of  both  battalions  were  soon  effectively  employed, 
whilst  the  machine  guns  of  the  Royal  Scots,  thrown 
slightly  forward  in  a  quarry  about  the  centre  of  the  line, 
poured  in  a  deadly  enfilade  fire.  The  49th  Battery  also 
contributed  to  the  enemy's  discomfiture  by  firing  shrapnel 
from  Bois  la  Haut.  To  be  brief,  in  this  quarter  the 
enemy  was  brought  to  a  standstill  three  hundred  yards 
from  the  British  trenches. 

Within  the  Salient  the  conditions  were  very  different. 
The  Germans  shortly  after  noon  succeeded  in  passing 
the  Canal  west  of  Obourg,  and  in  reaching  the  railway  ; 
then,  taught  by  hard  experience,  they  abandoned  massed 
formation  and  advanced  in  extended  order.  At  12.30  P.M. 
the  Royal  Irish  were  ordered  to  reinforce  the  Middlesex 
and,  moving  off  under  heavy  fire  of  artillery  and  machine 
guns  in  the  direction  of  Hill  62,  deployed  on  the  left  of 
the  Middlesex.  It  was  nearly  1.30  P.M.  before  they  reached 
their  position,  for  they  were  always  under  a  storm  of 
German  shells,  without  any  support  from  the  British 
artillery.  Anything  in  the  nature  of  a  local  .counter- 
attack to  relieve  the  Middlesex  was  out  of  the  question, 
owing  to  wire  fences  and  other  obstacles.  Far  from  gaining 
ground,  the  Royal  Irish  could  only  just  hold  their  own. 
They  now  shifted  their  machine  guns,  which  had  previously 
been  massed  with  those  of  the  Middlesex,  to  the  extreme 
right  of  their  own  front.  They  had  not  long  been  there 
when  a  body  of  Uhlans  debouched  from  a  wood  about  six 
hundred  yards  east  of  them,  and  was  instantly  met  by 


fire   from   both   rifles   and   machine   guns.     The   German  23  Aug. 
horsemen  turned  about  but,  as  they  retired,  were  caught    1914- 
in  flank  by  the  fire  of  some  of  the  Middlesex  falling  back 
from  Obourg.     This,    however,  though    satisfactory,    was 
but  a  trifling  incident.     The  IX.  Corps  was  attacking  in 
earnest ;   and  it  was  for  the  Royal  Irish  and  the  Middlesex 
to  maintain  a  "  stubborn  resistance." 

The  situation  of  these  two  battalions  was  precarious 
in  the  extreme,  for  they  were  not,  as  were  the  Royal  Scots, 
in  a  well  concealed  position  which  the  German  artillery 
could  not  exactly  locate,  and  with  a  good  field  of  fire  before 
them.  On  the  contrary,  their  ground  was  under  good 
observation  from  the  heights  on  the  north  of  the  Canal ; 
and  the  German  batteries,1  having  complete  ascendancy, 
kept  them  under  heavy  fire.  Under  the  protection  of  this 
fire,  the  German  infantry  slowly  gained  ground  by  sheer 
weight  of  numbers,  but  not  without  loss.  Shortly  after 
2  P.M.  the  machine-gun  section  of  the  Royal  Irish  tried 
to  come  into  action  on  the  road  about  three  hundred 
yards  north  of  Bois  la  Haut,  but  one  gun  was  at  once 
disabled  and  had  to  be  abandoned.  Returning  to  the 
original  position,  the  remaining  gun  again  came  into 
action,  but  called  down  upon  itself  a  concentrated  fire 
of  guns  and  machine  guns,  which  disabled  it  immediately 
and  killed  or  wounded  every  man  of  the  section.  The 
machine  guns  of  the  Middlesex  were  also  in  trouble,  for 
the  Germans  had  brought  up  at  least  six  of  these  weapons 
against  them,  and  the  officer  in  command  of  the  section 
had  been  wounded,  though  he  still  remained  in  charge 
of  his  men.  By  3.15  P.M.  the  German  infantry,  in  great 
force,  was  within  a  furlong  of  the  Royal  Irish  and  working 
round  both  flanks ;  and  then,  after  consultation  with 
Colonel  Hull  of  the  Middlesex,  Major  St.  Leger  who  was 
in  command  decided  to  withdraw  the  Royal  Irish  some 
fifteen  hundred  yards  southward  to  the  northern  slopes 
of  Bois  la  Haut.  The  right  of  their  line  moved  first ; 
meanwhile  the  remainder  were  collected  into  two  bodies  : 
one  by  Colonel  Hull  on  the  northern  slopes  of  the  hill, 
and  the  other  at  its  north-eastern  corner.  The  latter 
helped  greatly  to  cover  the  retreat,  which  was  conducted 
methodically  and  in  good  order ;  and  the  battalion  finally 
rallied  on  the  left  of  the  left  company  of  the  Gordons 
whose  line  now  extended  almost  to  the  cross  roads  north 

1  Of  the  18th  Division  between  St.  Denis  and  Masieres,  3  miles  north- 
east of  Mons. 

76  MONS 

of  Bois  la  Haut,  the  time  being  then  about  4  P.M.  The 
shelling  was  still  very  heavy,  and  the  cross  roads  them- 
selves were  swept  by  machine  guns  from  the  east,  though 
some  buildings  at  that  point  and  the  ground  west  of 
the  cross  roads  gave  some  protection  from  bullets.  A 
section  of  the  49th  Battery  unlimbered  on  the  left  of 
the  Royal  Irish  and,  though  greatly  exposed,  gave  them 
some  support. 

The  Middlesex  fell  back  about  the  same  time  as  the 
Royal  Irish,  between  them  and  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade 
in  Mons,  though,  being  more  widely  extended,  they  were 
less  easily  re-formed.  One  company,  on  leaving  the  Bois 
d'Havre,  which  lies  south  of  Obourg,  entered  the  deserted 
rifle  pits  of  the  Royal  Irish  and  there  for  a  time  stood 
fast.  But  the  retreat  of  both  battalions  was  facilitated 
by  the  fate  of  the  first  German  attack  upon  the  hill  of 
Bois  la  Haut  itself.  This  attack  was  opened  by  about 
a  company  of  German  infantry,  which,  with  scouts  in 
front  of  it,  emerged  gradually  from  a  wood  against  the 
left  centre  company  of  the  Gordons.  The  Highlanders 
allowed  the  scouts  to  advance  and  held  their  fire  until 
greater  numbers  appeared  ;  then  they  opened  rapid  fire 
at  five  hundred  yards'  range,  and  in  a  few  minutes  stopped 
the  attack  with  heavy  loss.  Thereby  a  short  respite  was 
gained,  which  enabled  the  retiring  battalions  to  settle 
down  in  their  new  positions. 

Meanwhile,  at  2  P.M.  the  Royal  Fusiliers,  in  obedience 
to  Brigadier-General  Shaw's  (9th  Infantry  Brigade)  orders, 
withdrew  southwards  from  Nimy,  the  supporting  companies 
covering  the  retirement  of  the  advanced  companies  with 
peacetime  precision.  Their  losses  did  not  greatly  exceed 
one  hundred;  and  after  re-forming  in  Mons  the  battalion 
moved  southward  again  to  Ciply.1  The  Lincolnshire  had 
been  employed  since  noon  in  barricading  the  three  roads 
that  lead  from  Mons  to  the  south,  but  the  Germans  did 
not  follow  the  Royal  Fusiliers  very  closely ;  and  when  they 
at  last  tried  to  debouch  by  the  main  road  from  Mons, 
they  were  met  by  a  destructive  fire  from  the  Lincolnshire 
at  the  barricade  and  by  a  few  shells  from  the  109th 
Battery  at  close  range.  Unable  to  make  any  progress, 
they  turned  westward,  leaving  the  Lincolnshire  to  retire 

1  Lieut.  M.  J.  Dease  (who  died  of  wounds)  and  Private  S.  F.  Godley 
of  the  4/Royal  Fusiliers  were  awarded  the  Victoria  Cross  for  the  manner 
in  which  they  fought  the  machine  guns.  All  the  men  of  two  crews  were 
killed  or  wounded. 


at  their  leisure  by  Mesvin  upon  Nouvelles,  3  miles  south  23  Aug. 
of  Mons.  1914. 


About  3  P.M.  the  Scots  Fusiliers  (9th  Infantry  Brigade)  Map  7. 
likewise  fell  back  by  order,  through  Jemappes  upon 
Frameries,  3  miles  from  the  Canal ;  but  here,  since  the 
bridge  had  not  been  destroyed,  the  Germans  followed  hard 
after,  and  there  was  sharp  righting  along  the  road  and 
among  the  slag-heaps  north  of  Frameries.  Some  of  the 
Fusiliers,  firing  from  the  houses,  used  their  weapons  with 
special  effect ;  but  two  companies,  which  were  entangled 
among  the  slag-heaps,  suffered  much  from  machine  guns 
which  the  Germans  had  instantly  brought  forward,  and 
for  a  time  were  in  serious  difficulties,  the  ground  being 
most  unfavourable  either  for  defence  or  for  the  co- 
operation of  artillery.  About  4  P.M.,  however,  the  two 
supporting  companies  of  the  Fifth  Fusiliers,  the  left  of 
the  9th  Infantry  Brigade,  whose  orders  to  retire  from 
Mariette  had  reached  them  rather  late,  struck  in  from 
the  west  upon  the  flank  of  the  Germans,  and,  after  some 
fighting,  enabled  the  Scots  Fusiliers  to  extricate  them- 
selves and  to  re-form  within  the  village.  The  German 
guns  were  sufficiently  far  advanced  to  shell  the  position 
of  the  South  Lancashire  (7th  Infantry  Brigade),  a  mile 
north  of  Frameries,  but  only  one  or  two  small  parties  of 
infantry  approached  it.  The  forward  companies  of  the 
Fifth  Fusiliers  meanwhile  stuck  to  their  position  on  the 
Canal,  in  spite  of  the  command  to  retire,  in  order  to  cover 
the  Engineers  who  were  preparing  the  bridge  of  Mariette 
for  destruction.  Despite  the  extraordinary  coolness  and 
gallantry  of  Captain  Wright,1  who  swung  himself  forward, 
hand  over  hand,  under  the  bridge  to  connect  the  charges, 
the  work  could  not  be  effected,  though  he  made  a  second 
attempt  after  being  wounded  in  the  head.  It  was  riot  until 
5  P.M.  that  the  withdrawal  of  the  Sappers,  after  collecting 
all  their  gear,  permitted  these  two  companies  of  the  Fifth 
to  retire  towards  Frameries  ;  but  the  Germans  made  no 
effort  to  press  them  and,  in  fact,  did  not  immediately 
cross  the  bridge. 

1  The  late  Captain  T.  Wright,  R.E.,  received  the  Victoria  Cross  for  this 
service.  Lance-Corporal  C.  A.  Jarvis,  57th  Field  Company,  R.E.,  also 
received  it  for  working  1J  hours  under  heavy  fire  and  successfully  firing 
the  charges  at  Jemappes  bridge. 

78  MONS 

Further  to  the  left,  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade  still 
held  its  position  on  the  Canal,  though  the  fire  of  the  German 
artillery  steadily  increased  in  the  course  of  the  afternoon. 
The  enemy,  in  fact,  pushed  forward  three  batteries  to 
within  twelve  hundred  yards  of  the  Canal  about  St.  Ghislain, 
and  smothered  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade  with  shells,  but 
did  remarkably  little  damage.  Indeed,  it  was  not  until 
the  Germans,  about  6  P.M.,  brought  up  guns  within  close 
range  and  destroyed  the  barricade  over  Les  Herbieres  road 
bridge  that  the  Scottish  Borderers  withdrew  to  the  southern 
bank,  the  17th  Field  Co.  R.E.  blowing  up  the  bridge 
behind  them.  The  railway  bridge  was  blown  up  at  the 
same  time  ;  and  this  was  the  signal  for  the  destruction 
of  the  road  bridge  near  La  Hamaide,  further  west,  covered 
by  the  East  Surreys  (14th  Infantry  Brigade),  who  there- 
upon withdrew  their  advanced  parties  north  of  the  Canal. 
The  battalion  then  retired  by  alternate  companies  to  the 
position  ordered  near  Thulin,  south  of  the  Haine.  Never- 
theless in  this  quarter,  the  Germans  were  unable  to  make 
the  slightest  progress,  and,  indeed,  at  dusk  the  West 
Kents  were  still  holding  their  position  north  of  the  Canal.1 
On  the  left  of  the  East  Surreys  the  Cornwall  Light 
Infantry  were  left  wholly  undisturbed  until  4.45  P.M.  when 
a  mass  of  German  cavalry  coming  down  the  road  from 
Ville  Pommeroeul  was  driven  back  headlong  by  machine- 
gun  and  rapid  rifle  fire.  Immediately  afterwards,  the 
advanced  parties  were  recalled  to  the  southern  bank  of  the 
Canal ;  the  bridge  was  then  blown  up  by  the  59th  Field  Co. 
R.E.,  and  all  fell  back  across  the  Haine  to  the  second 

On  the  extreme  left,  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade  relieved 
the  Cavalry  Division  between  2  and  3  P.M.,  the  I/Middlesex 
and  the  Cameronians  taking  up  the  line  to  Conde.  Soon 
after  5  P.M.  an  attack  was  made  upon  Lock  5,  when 
the  enemy  contrived  to  mount  a  machine  gun  in  a  house 
commanding  the  buildings.  The  lock  bridge  was  therefore 
blown  up,  but  the  I/Middlesex,  though  they  abandoned 
the  buildings,  continued  to  hold  their  own  without  difficulty 
and  with  trifling  loss. 


Map  7.        Such,  therefore,  was  the  condition  of  affairs  west  of  the 
Salient  whilst  the   2/Royal  Irish  and  4/Middlesex  were 

1  See  footnote  2,  p.  71. 


defending  their  second  position  north  of  Bois  la  Haut ;  the  23 
facts  most  important  to  them  were,  that  the  Germans,  in  con-  1914 
sequence  of  the  retirement  "  by  order  "  of  the  9th  Infantry 
Brigade,  were  defiling  through  Mons,  though  checked 
for  a  time  at  its  southern  border,  and  had  nearly  reached 
Frameries,  3  miles  south-west  of  the  town.  About  5  P.M. 
the  main  body  of  the  Royal  Irish  was  again  forced  to  retire. 
By  that  time  those  of  the  Middlesex  who  had  occupied  the 
rifle  pits  of  the  Royal  Irish  were  overwhelmed  by  the 
attacking  swarms  of  Germans,  many  of  their  rifles  being 
so  much  clogged  with  sand  as  to  be  useless.  Then  came 
the  turn  of  their  machine-gun  section  which,  with  the  water 
boiling  furiously  in  the  jackets  of  the  guns,  fired  away  its 
last  rounds  of  ammunition  into  the  masses  of  the  enemy, 
and  was  then  overpowered.  Having  no  other  position  in 
rear  that  offered  any  field  of  fire,  the  main  body  of  the 
Royal  Irish  re-formed  west  of  the  northern  end  of  Bois  la 
Haut,  their  withdrawal  being  assisted  by  the  left  company 
of  the  Gordons.  Here  the  4/Middlesex  passed  through 
them  and,  taking  the  first  road  to  the  westward,  marched 
towards  Hyon  (J  mile  west  of  Bois  la  Haut)  on  their  way 
to  Nouvelles,  their  place  in  the  second  position.  The  Royal 
Irish  started  back  along  the  same  road,  but  had  not 
proceeded  far  before  they  found  the  enemy  ahead  of 
them  little  more  than  a  hundred  yards  away.  Cramped 
between  the  steep  slope  of  Bois  la  Haut  and  a  tangle  of 
buildings  on  the  other  side  of  the  road,  deployment  was 
impossible  ;  and  the  battalion  was  obliged  to  turn  north- 
ward and  to  work  round  the  hill  to  its  south-eastern  angle. 
Here  the  guns  of  the  6th  Battery,  expecting  an  attack 
every  minute,  were  disposed  in  a  semi-circle,  and  the  Royal 
Irish,  together  with  a  platoon  of  the  Gordons  which  was 
acting  as  escort  to  the  battery,  entrenched  themselves 
about  the  guns,  facing  north,  west,  and  south.  The  enemy 
followed  them  up,  but,  being  in  no  great  strength,  did  not 
venture  to  attack. 

Meanwhile,  the  23rd  Battery  had  received  orders  to 
retire  from  the  summit  of  Bois  la  Haut,  and  selected  as 
its  route  a  sunken  lane  leading  due  south  into  the  main 
road  to  Hyon.  Proceeding  that  way,  the  head  of  the 
battery  had  reached  a  point  within  a  hundred  yards  of 
the  main  Hyon  road,  when  the  leading  teams  and  drivers 
were  all  shot  down  by  German  infantry,  who  had  come 
through  Mons  and  were  hidden  behind  a  barricade  at  right 
angles  to  the  end  of  the  lane.  The  gunners  went  forward 

80  MONS 

to  engage  the  enemy  with  rifles,  and,  being  joined  by  the 
battery  escort  of  the  Gordon  Highlanders,  drove  the 
Germans  back  into  Hyon  with  some  loss.  The  enemy's 
barricade  was  then  occupied,  and  a  second  barricade  thrown 
up  a  little  east  of  it ;  some  adjoining  buildings  were  placed 
in  a  state  of  defence  ;  and,  while  all  ranks  gave  themselves 
to  the  task  of  clearing  the  lane,  the  major  in  command  of 
the  battery  went  off  to  find  Brigadier-General  B.  Doran 
(8th  Infantry  Brigade).  Although  the  light  had  now  begun 
to  fail,  the  23rd  Battery  was  still  in  an  unenviable  situa- 
tion. Moreover,  the  Germans  seemed  bent  upon  pinning 
the  8th  Infantry  Brigade  to  its  ground,  for  between  7  and 
8  P.M.  they  launched  a  general  attack,  without  any  pre- 
liminary bombardment,  against  the  whole  front  of  the 
Gordons  and  Royal  Scots  along  the  Harmignies — Mons 
road.  The  attenuated  line  of  the  Royal  Scots  had  since 
4  P.M.  been  reinforced  by  two  companies  of  the  Irish  Rifles 
from  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade,  and  the  entire  front  blazed 
into  a  burst  of  rapid  fire,  which  cut  the  Germans  down  by 
scores  and  brought  them  instantly  to  a  complete  stand- 
still.1 The  enemy  then  drew  off,  but  some  of  them  assemb- 
ling about  the  cross  roads  north-east  of  Bois  la  Haut,  were 
dispersed  anew  by  the  fire  of  the  little  party  of  the  Royal 
Irish  installed  there.  Still,  the  general  situation  of  the 
8th  Infantry  Brigade  was  insecure  ;  the  enemy,  as  he  had 
just  demonstrated,  was  in  force  on  its  front,  and  in  its  rear 
parties  had  penetrated  through  Mons  as  far  as  Hyon. 


Map  7.  For  the  better  understanding  of  the  general  position  of 
the  British,  it  will  be  as  well  to  review  their  line  from  the 
Salient  westward,  as  it  stood  at  nightfall.  Of  the  3rd 
Division,  the  position  of  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade  has  just 
been  described ;  it  was  the  apex  of  the  new  front.  The 
7th  and  9th  Infantry  Brigades  were  entrenched  on  its  left 
between  Nouvelles  and  Frameries  three  miles  from  the 
Canal ;  and  the  guns  had  been  withdrawn  from  Erebus  to 
the  vicinity  of  Frameries  for  the  night.  Of  the  5th  Divi- 
sion, on  the  left  of  the  3rd,  in  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade 
the  West  Kents  were  still  in  their  position  on  the  Canal, 
with  orders  to  retire  three  miles  south-east  to  Wasmes  at 
midnight.  They  had  lost  little  more  than  a  hundred  men  ; 

1  The  75th  Regiment  lost  5  officers  and  376  men  in  this  attack.    See 
"  Mons,"  pp.  33,  34. 


and  from  five  to  six  hundred  yards  to  their  front  the  23  Aug. 
Brandenburg  Grenadiers,  who  had  suffered  heavy  loss,  had  1914. 
entrenched  themselves  in  the  marshy  meadows  on  the 
north  bank.  On  the  left  of  the  West  Kents,  the  Scottish 
Borderers  had  just  withdrawn  their  advanced  companies 
from  the  north  of  the  Canal,  and  had  repulsed,  with  great 
slaughter,  an  attempt  of  the  Germans  to  debouch  in  mass 
from  a  wood  opposite  the  left  of  their  main  line.  The 
bridges  over  the  Canal  on  their  front  had  been  blown  up, 
and  the  Scottish  Borderers  were  also  preparing  to  march 
to  Wasmes,  some  of  the  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry  coming 
forward  to  cover  the  movement.  There  was  no  sign  of 
any  pursuit  by  the  Germans,  though  the  demolished  bridge 
was  not  impassable  for  an  enterprising  enemy.  Opposite 
Les  Herbieres  the  East  Surreys  and  the  remainder  of  the 
14th  Infantry  Brigade  had  joined,  or  were  in  the  act  of 
joining,  the  Cornwall  Light  Infantry  in  the  second  position 
south  of  the  Haine.  Here  the  enemy,  after  suffering 
severely  while  passing  the  Canal  from  the  machine  guns 
of  the  Cornwall  Light  Infantry  and  the  Manchesters,  was 
firing  away  an  immense  amount  of  ammunition  with  very 
little  result.  On  the  extreme  left,  the  19th  Infantry 
Brigade  was  still  in  position  on  the  bank  of  the  Canal. 

Thus  it  will  be  observed  that  there  was  no  uniformity 
of  movement  from  the  outpost  line  on  the  Canal  to  the 
main  position  in  rear  ;  the  characteristic  obstinacy  of  the 
British  infantry,  which  has  always  fought  on  without  much 
regard  to  what  was  happening  in  other  parts  of  the  field, 
was  thus  early  made  manifest,  in  spite  of  the  efforts  of 
the  Staff  to  co-ordinate  the  withdrawal.  The  13th  In- 
fantry Brigade  did  not  attempt  to  retire  until  night, 
though  the  brigades  to  the  right  and  left  of  it  fell  back  in 
the  afternoon.  The  19th  Infantry  Brigade  also  stood  fast. 
As  a  result  of  the  retirement  of  the  two  divisions  from  the 
outpost  line  on  the  Canal  to  the  position  south  of  Mons, 
the  left  of  the  3rd  Division  remained  as  heretofore  on  the 
road  between  Frameries  and  Cuesmes,  but  the  right  of  the 
5th  Division  extended  no  further  than  to  the  road  from 
Quaregnon  to  Paturages  ;  and  between  the  inner  flanks  of 
the  divisions  there  was  a  gap,  almost  entirely  covered  by 
houses,  of  some  two  miles.  This  gap  had  been  foreseen 
by  II.  Corps  Headquarters,  and  more  than  one  message 
passed  early  in  the  afternoon  between  it  and  G.H.Q.  and 
the  Staff  of  the  I.  Corps  with  reference  to  using  the  5th 
Infantry  Brigade  to  fill  it,  as  this  brigade  was  close  at  hand 

VOL.  i  G 

82  MONS 

in  reserve  near  Genly,  in  rear  of  Frameries.  As  a  first 
measure,  General  Smith-Dorrien  ordered  the  1/Bedfords 
from  the  15th  Infantry  Brigade  to  Paturages,  and,  later 
on,  three  battalions  of  the  5th  Infantry  Brigade  arrived 
from  the  I.  Corps,  in  compliance  with  his  request.  Two 
battalions  of  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  had  moved  up  late 
in  the  evening  to  Hill  93,  and  were  in  touch  with  the  Royal 
Scots,  thus  completing  the  junction  between  I.  and  II. 
Corps.  The  only  thing  that  still  remained  in  doubt  was 
the  fate  of  part  of  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade  and  the  artillery 
with  it.  At  9  P.M.  orders  were  issued  by  Brigadier-General 
B.  Doran  to  fall  back  to  the  new  position  at  Nouvelles. 
The  party  of  the  Royal  Irish  at  the  cross-roads,  having 
clung  to  their  little  stronghold  till  10  P.M.,  joined  the 
Gordons,  bringing  with  them  one  of  the  battalion  machine 
guns,  which  had  been  repaired  from  the  wreck  of  the  other. 
The  6th  Battery  guns  were  man-handled  to  the  foot  of 
Bois  la  Haut ;  and  the  teams  were  then  hooked  in,  and 
two  temporarily  abandoned  18-pdrs.  were  also  brought 
away.  These  guns  and  the  Royal  Irish  were  the  first  to 
move  off,  about  11  P.M.,  and  meanwhile  the  23rd  Battery 
had  been  working  hard  to  clear  the  lane  and  extricate  its 
guns.  Soon  after  dark  a  strong  German  patrol  was 
driven  off,  with  loss,  from  the  barricade  ;  and  by  10  P.M. 
the  road  was  free  and  the  battery  ready  to  march. 
Shortly  afterwards  the  battery  commander  returned,  having 
walked  through  some  German  troops,  and  by  his  orders  the 
battery  drove  off  as  noiselessly  as  possible — the  Germans 
being  within  three  hundred  yards  of  it — eastward  to  the 
Beaumont  road  and  thence,  by  Spiennes,  to  Nouvelles. 
At  midnight  the  Gordon  Highlanders  marched  off,  the 
Royal  Scots  opening  fire  to  drown  the  tramp  of  men  and 
the  clatter  of  vehicles  ;  and  the  23rd  Battery  overtook 
them  on  their  way.  The  Royal  Scots  then  withdrew, 
company  by  company,  and  before  3  A.M.  on  the  24th  the 
whole  of  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade,  together  with  the  three 
batteries  attached  to  it,  was  safe  in  Nouvelles.  The 
casualties  of  the  Royal  Scots  and  Gordons  had  been 
trifling ;  but  those  of  the  Royal  Irish  and  of  the  4/Middle- 
sex  exceeded  three  hundred  and  four  hundred,  respectively. 
Altogether,  the  British  commanders  were  not  ill- 
satisfied  with  the  day's  work.  The  unsatisfactory  position 
on  the  Canal  had  been  imposed  upon  them  fortuitously; 
but  it  had  been  held  for  a  sufficient  time,  and  had 
been  evacuated,  without  great  difficulty  or  disaster,  in 


favour  of  a  second  position  only  a  mile  or  two  in  rear.  23  Aug. 
The  men,  too,  were  in  high  spirits,  for  they  had  met  superior  1914(- 
numbers  of  the  most  highly  renowned  army  in  the  world 
and  had  given  a  good  account  of  themselves.  The 
casualties  of  the  British  amounted  to  just  over  sixteen 
hundred  of  all  ranks,  killed,  wounded  and  missing.  The 
whole  of  these,  except  forty,  were  sustained  by  the  II. 
Corps,  and  practically  half  of  them  by  two  battalions  of 
the  8th  Infantry  Brigade  in  the  Salient.1  The  only  loss  of 
artillery  was  that  of  two  guns  of  the  120th  Battery,  which 
could  not  be  removed  from  their  exposed  position  on  the 
Canal  at  St.  Ghislain. 

The  general  result  of  the  action  was  that  the  German 
advance  was  delayed  a  whole  day.  Von  Kluck's  orders 
for  the  23rd  August  directed  the  ///.  and  IV.  Corps  to 
"  occupy  the  rising  ground  on  the  southern  side  of  the 
Canal,"  whilst  the  IX.  Corps  was  to  advance  via  Mons  to 
the  north  and  north-western  front  of  Maubeuge.  The 
positions  prescribed  for  the  23rd  were  actually  the  limits 
of  advance  on  the  24th,  as  will  be  seen. 

A  German  general  has  summed  the  action  up  in  these 
words  :  2 

"The  German  First  Army  was  so  near  to  Field  Marshal 
French  that  there  was  some  rear-guard  fighting  on  and  south  of 
the  canal,  particularly  near  Mons.  This  only  slightly  delayed 
the  English  retirement,  but  cost  the  Germans  some  losses." 

Judged  by  the  units  whose  casualties  are  now  known,  the 
losses  must  have  been  very  heavy.  And  this  is  confirmed 
by  the  behaviour  of  the  Germans  as  it  grew  dusk.  The 
success  in  the  Salient  against  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade 
was  not  exploited.  No  enemy  appeared  elsewhere  either 
to  take  advantage  of  the  gaps  that  presented  themselves 
in  the  British  line  or  to  embarrass  the  retirement.  As  at 
the  close  of  a  manoeuvre  day,  German  bugles,  to  the 
astonishment  of  the  British  troops  near  the  Canal,  were 
heard  to  sound  the  "  cease  fire,"  repeating  it  along  the 
line  unit  by  unit,  and  then,  after  some  little  singing  at  one 
place,  all  was  quiet.  But  the  enemy  showed  his  nervous- 
ness and  fear  of  a  night  attack  by  the  constant  discharge 

1  It  may  be  of  interest  to  note  that  the  strength  of  the  3rd  and  5th 
Divisions,  those  principally  engaged  at  Mons,  was  just  under  36,000  ;  the 
strength  of  the  British  Army  at  the  battle  of  Waterloo  was  31,585  (Welling- 
ton Despatches,  xii.  pp.  485-7). 

2  Lieut.-General  von   Zwehl  in   "  Militar  Wochenblatt "   No.   36,   of 
September  1919.     For  the  German  formations  in  action  at  Mons  see  later  in 
this  Chapter. 

84  MONS 

of  illuminating  flares,  which  the  British  soldier  then  saw 
for  the  first  time. 

Sketch  s.  There  was  no  real  anxiety  at  G.H.Q.,  therefore,  except 
Maps  3  as  regards  events  further  east.  During  the  day  the 
&  5*  Flying  Corps  had  reported  fighting  about  Charleroi,  two 
powerful  German  columns  moving  south-westward  from 
Charleroi  and  from  Luttre,  and  a  heavy  engagement  at 
Thuin,  the  left  of  the  French  Fifth  Army.  Another  report, 
which  came  to  hand  soon  after  5  P.M.,  stated  that  Tournai 
appeared  to  be  in  the  enemy's  hands,  and  that  a  long 
column  of  all  arms  was  moving  southward  through  Ladeuze 
(13  miles  west  of  Soignies),  Grosage  and  Neufmaison 
towards  Ville  Pommeroeul.1  The  conclusion  to  which 
this  intelligence  tended  was,  that  the  enemy  would  prob- 
ably continue  to  develop  his  attack  during  the  night  and 
upon  the  following  day.  At  8.40  P.M.  this  conclusion  was 
embodied  in  a  message  from  Sir  John  French  to  the  II. 
Corps :  "I  will  stand  the  attack  on  the  ground  now 
"  occupied  by  the  troops.  You  will  therefore  strengthen 
"  your  position  by  every  possible  means  during  the  night." 
Further  information,  however,  which  arrived  from 
French  Headquarters  during  the  evening  and  just  before 
midnight,  led  the  British  Commander-in- Chief  to  decide 
that  his  position  in  advance  of  the  general  line  was  stra- 
tegically untenable,  and  that  an  immediate  retirement  was 
necessary.  He  thereby  escaped,  to  use  the  enemy's  words, 
a  "  veritable  wasps'  nest  "  2  and  his  action  fell  in  with  the 
wishes  of  General  Joffre,  official  notification  of  which 
reached  him  next  day  shortly  after  1  P.M.  in  two  messages. 
The  first  message  was  to  the  effect  that  the  French 
commander  had  decided  that  his  Fifth  Army  should  man- 
oeuvre in  retreat  and  rest  its  left  on  the  fortress  of  Mau- 
beuge,  and  its  right  on  the  wooded  massif  of  the  Ardennes, 
remaining  in  liaison  with  the  British  Expeditionary  Force 
by  means  of  cavalry.  The  second  pointed  out  the  desira- 
bility of  delaying  the  advance  of  the  enemy  between 
Maubeuge — Valenciennes,  and  gave  Cambrai  as  the  general 
direction  of  retirement  for  the  British  if  the  enemy  should 
appear  in  superior  force,  with  their  right  on  Le  Cateau, 
and  their  left  on  the  water  line  Denain — Bouchain — Arleux. 
G.H.Q.  informed  General  Joffre  that  the  British  Force 
was  falling  back  slowly  to  the  position  Maubeuge — Valen- 
ciennes, and  that,  if  driven  from  this,  it  would  act  in 
accordance  with  his  wishes. 

1  The  German  IV.  Corps.  ~  Lieut.-General  von  Zwehl. 


The  reason  for  these  messages  was  sufficiently  cogent.  23  Aug. 
As  a  result  of  his  operations  on  the  23rd,  General  de  Langle  1»14- 
de  Gary  had  ordered  a  general  retirement  of  the  French 
Fourth  Army  on  the  24th  to  the  line  Montmedy — Sedan — 
Mezieres,  that  is,  the  line  of  the  Chiers  and  Meuse.  In 
consequence  of  the  failure  of  the  Fourth  Army  to  get 
forward,  General  Lanrezac's  right  flank  on  the  Meuse  was 
not  only  exposed  to  the  attack  of,  but  was  actually  attacked 
by,  the  German  Third  Army  from  the  east,  whilst  the  Ger- 
man Second  Army  advanced  against  his  main  force  near 
Charleroi  from  the  north ;  on  the  night  of  the  23rd/24th  he 
therefore  ordered  the  French  Fifth  Army  to  commence 
retiring  before  daybreak  south  of  the  general  line  Givet — 
Phillippeville — Beaumont — Maubeuge,  with  its  left,  the 
XVIII.  Corps,  about  Solre  le  Chateau,  22  miles  south- 
east of  Mons.  General  Valabregue,  hearing  of  the  attack 
on  the  XVIII.  Corps  near  Thuin  on  the  23rd,  had 
assembled  his  Reserve  divisions  that  night  near  Cousolre, 
10  miles  due  east  of  Maubeuge.  There  was  therefore  not 
only  a  considerable  gap  between  the  Allied  forces,  but  the 
French  were  preparing  a  retirement  that  might  increase  it. 


The  monograph  "  Die  Schlacht  bei  Mons,"  published 
by  the  German  General  Staff  at  the  end  of  1919,  gives  a 
very  clear  account  of  the  fight,  with  excellent  maps  showing 
the   attacks   of  the   different   corps.     According  to  this,  sketch  3. 
3J  divisions  (the  17th,  18th,  6th  and  part  of  5th)   of  the  Map  5. 
First  Army  attacked  the   British   3rd   Division,   and   2J 
(part  of  5th,  the  7th  and  8th)  the  British  5th  Division. 

The  IX.  Corps  (17th  and  18th  Divisions)  attacked  south- 
west towards  Mons  on  the  front  Villers  Ghislain — Nimy.  On 
its  right  came  the  ///.  Corps  (6th  and  5th  Divisions)  against 
Jemappes  and  Les  Herbieres  and,  further  west,  as  far  as 
Lock  No.  5,  the  IV.  Corps  (7th  and  8th  Divisions).  At 
nightfall  the  VII.  Corps  of  the  Second  Army,  on  the  left  of 
the  IX.,  had  got  no  further  than  Binche,  and  the  //.  Corps, 
on  the  right  of  the  IV.,  was  some  15  miles  north  of  Conde, 
still  marching  southwards  heading  for  that  town,  with  the 
II.  Cavalry  Corps  on  its  right  facing  westwards  towards 
Tour  coing — Roubaix — Lille . 

It  was  part  of  the  17th  Division  Artillery  (six  batteries) 
behind  Villers  Ghislain,  and  possibly  some  of  the  VII.  Corps 
Artillery,  covered  by  the  16ih  Dragoons  and  a  Fusilier 

86  MONS 

battalion,  which  fired  on  the  I.  Corps  as  related  in  the 

The  German  account  is  frank  enough  ;  it  states  :  "  Well 
"  entrenched  and  completely  hidden,  the  enemy  opened  a 
"murderous  fire  .  .  .  the  casualties  increased  .  .  .  the 
"rushes  became  shorter,  and  finally  the  whole  advance 
"stopped  ....  with  bloody  losses,  the  attack  gradually 
"  came  to  an  end."  As  soon  as  it  got  dark  the  Germans 
gladly  stopped. 

In  the  17th  Division  the  75th  (Bremen)  Regiment  lost 
5  officers  and  376  men  in  one  attack.1  This  division  made 
no  attempt  to  advance  after  dusk  fell. 

In  the  18th  Division  at  the  beginning  of  darkness  the 
brigades  dug  in  on  the  line  they  had  reached,  and  bivouacked. 

The  6th  Division  got  across  the  Canal,  but  towards 
7  P.M.  all  attempts  to  advance  failed,  and  the  division  went 
into  bivouac.  "  Fighting  posts,  pushed  a  few  hundred 
yards  out,  protected  the  tired  troops." 

The  5th  Division  failed  to  get  across  the  Canal.  One 
of  its  regiments,  the  12th  Brandenburg  Grenadiers,  whose 
attack  on  the  West  Kents  has  been  referred  to,  had  lost  "25 
officers  and  far  more  than  500  N.C.O.'s  and  men,"  when 
"the  summer  night  settled  on  the  blood-stained  battle- 
"  field  and  with  its  shade  gave  a  protecting  curtain  against 
"  the  hostile  fire."  It  was  this  division  whose  singing  was 
heard  :  to  cheer  themselves,  the  men  sang  "  Deutschland 
iiber  alles." 

The  IV.  Corps  did  not  cross  the  Canal  during  the  battle. 
Some  patrols  managed  to  get  over  after  midnight,  but 
"  up  to  9  P.M.  the  enemy  fire  was  as  strong  as  ever." 

Von  Kluck,  according  to  the  General  Staff  account, 
"  after  the  stubborn  defence  of  the  enemy,  especially 
"  opposite  the  ///.  Corps,  expected  that  the  British  would 
"  offer  energetic  resistance  again  next  day  on  the  high  ground 
"south  of  Mons.  He  therefore  resolved  to  continue  the 
"  attack  next  day  enveloping  the  left  flank,  with  the  inten- 
"  tion  of  cutting  off  the  enemy's  retreat  to  the  west."  2  The 
II.  Cavalry  Corps  was  ordered  south  to  assist.  Von  Kluck, 
in  his  version  of  his  orders,  adds  "  The  attack  will  be  so 
directed  as  to  force  the  enemy  into  Maubeuge." 

1  See  p.  80. 
2  Kuhl,  "  Marne,"  p.  70,  confirms  this. 



ON  THE  24TH  AUGUST  1914 

(See  Sketch  3  ;   Maps  2,  3,  5,  6,  7,  &  8) 

THE  night  of  the  23rd/24th  August  passed  without  serious  Sketch  3. 
disturbance  of  any  kind  from  the  enemy ;  and  at  dawn  on  M*PS  6 
the  24th  the  Army  occupied  a  line  facing  roughly  north- 
east,  seventeen  miles  long,  with  the  centre  some  three 
miles  south  of  Mons.     The  exact  positions  from  right  to 
left  were  : — 

I.  CORPS  : 

1st  Division 

5th  Cavalry  Brigade 

2nd  Division  : 

6th  Infantry  Brigade 

4th  do. 

5th  do. 

2 /Conn  aught  Rangers 

II.  CORPS  : 

3rd  Division  : 

8th  Infantry  Brigade 
7th  do. 

9th  do. 

5th  Division  : 

I/Bedford  (15th  I.B.) 
13th  Infantry  Brigade 
I/Dorset  (15th  I.E.) 
14th  Infantry  Brigade 
15th  do. 

(less  two  battalions) 

19th  Infantry  Brigade  . 

Cavalry  Division    . 

.   Grand  Reng,  Rouveroy,  Givry. 
.   Givry. 

.  Harmignies. 
.  Harveng. 
.  Paturages. 
.   Bougnies. 

.  Nouvelles. 

•  Ciply. 

.  Framenes. 

.   Paturages. 

.  Hornu — Bois  de  Boussu. 

.  Champ  des  Sarts — Hornu. 
(Thulin,  filouges,  Audregnies, 
\     Quievrain. 


88  MONS 

It  must  be  remembered  that  the  bulk  of  the  Army  had 
been  subjected  to  great  fatigue.  The  1st  Division,  though 
scarcely  engaged,  had  been  hurried  into  its  place  by  a  forced 
march  during  the  night  of  the  22nd/23rd  and  had  been 
under  arms  for  eighteen  hours  before  it  could  billet  or 
bivouac.  Of  the  II.  Corps,  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade  had 
been  fighting  all  day,  and  the  greater  part  of  it  got  no  rest 
until  the  early  morning  of  the  24th.  The  9th  Infantry 
Brigade  could  not  get  into  billets  at  Frameries  until  late. 
The  13th  Infantry  Brigade  did  not  reach  its  assigned 
position  much  before  daylight  on  the  24th,  and  the  14th 
Infantry  Brigade  was  little  earlier.  The  15th  Infantry 
Brigade  fared  better,  though  it  did  not  settle  down  until 
midnight.  The  19th  Infantry  Brigade  had  only  just 
left  the  train  at  Valenciennes,  when  it  was  hurried  up  to 
take  over  a  section  of  the  outpost  line.  Altogether,  the 
circumstances  were  very  trying  for  the  reservists,  who 
formed  60  per  cent,  of  the  infantry,  and  were  for  the  most 
part  still  out  of  condition. 

Map  «.  Shortly  after  11  P.M.  on  the  23rd  the  senior  General  Staff 
officers  of  the  I.  and  II.  Corps  and  the  Cavalry  Division, 
in  view  of  a  possible  retirement,  had  been  summoned  to 
General  Headquarters  at  Le  Cateau.  There  about  1  A.M. 
the  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  explained  that  it  was  the  in- 
tention of  Sir  John  French  to  make  a  general  retreat  south- 
wards of  about  eight  miles  to  an  east  and  west  line,  pre- 
viously reconnoitred,  from  La  Longueville  (five  miles  west 
of  Maubeuge)  westward  through  Bavai  and  four  miles 
beyond  it  to  the  hamlet  of  La  Boiserette,1  a  front  of 
about  seven  miles.  He  instructed  the  General  Staff 
officers  that  the  corps  were  to  retire  in  mutual  co-operation, 
the  actual  order  of  retirement  to  be  settled  by  the  two 
corps  commanders  in  consultation.  Brigadier  -  General 
Forestier  -  Walker  left  immediately  for  II.  Corps  Head- 
quarters, thirty-five  miles  off,  by  motor  car  ;  but  the  I. 
Corps  was  in  telegraphic  communication  with  G.H.Q.,  and 
Brigadier-General  J.  E.  Gough  could  therefore  send  off  a 
message  at  once,  which  reached  General  Haig  about  2  A.M. 
He  was  able  to  give  the  additional  information  that  the  I. 
Corps  was  to  cover  the  retirement  of  the  II.,  the  cavalry 
simultaneously  making  a  demonstration,  and  that  the 
roads  through  Maubeuge  were  not  open  to  the  British. 
G.H.Q.  further  suggested  that  the  left  of  the  I.  Corps 
should  receive  particular  attention,  and  that  the  line  from 

1  Misspelt  La  Bois  Crette  on  some  maps. 


Bonnet    (six    miles    north    of    Maubeuge)    westwards    to  24  Aug. 
Blaregnies  should  be  firmly  established  before  the  British   1914> 
left  was  withdrawn.     Actually,  it  was  mid-day  before  the 
corps  commanders  found  opportunity  to  meet  and  arrange 
how  these  suggestions  should  be  put  into  practice. 


In  the  meantime,  however,  to  carry  out  the  orders  the  Map  o 
I.  Corps  detailed  a  special  rear  guard,  composed  of  the 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade,  J  Battery,  the  XXXVI.  and  XLI. 
Brigades  R.F.A.,  and  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade,  under  the 
command  of  Brigadier-General  Home,  R.A.,  of  the  corps 
staff.  It  was  to  concentrate  at  Bonnet  and  make  an 
offensive  demonstration  at  daybreak,  so  as  to  delay  the 
enemy's  leading  troops  whilst  the  1st  and  2nd  Divisions 
fell  back. 

To  save  time,  General  Haig  motored  to  1st  and  2nd 
Divisional  Headquarters  and  in  person  issued  orders  for 
them  to  retire  by  two  roads  on  Feignies  and  Bavai.  The 
main  body  of  the  1st  Division  marched  off  at  4  A.M.,  un- 
molested, except  by  a  little  ineffective  shelling,  and  by  a 
few  small  bodies  of  cavalry,  which  were  roughly  handled 
by  the  infantry  and  the  artillery.  The  2nd  Division 
followed  at  4.45  A.M.  and  was  equally  undisturbed.  Even 
the  rear  guard  was  not  really  troubled : x  the  4th  (Guards) 
Brigade  retired  by  successive  echelons  from  Harveng  and 
Bougnies  to  a  position  two  miles  back  between  Quevy  le 
Petit  and  Genly,  pursued  by  heavy  but  ineffectual  bursts 
of  shrapnel.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  covered  the  ground 
on  the  left  of  the  Guards  from  Vellereille  le  Sec  westward, 
through  Harmignies  and  Nouvelles,  to  Ciply,  under  similar 
ineffective  shelling  ;  there  was  no  real  pressure  from  the 
enemy.  Here,  for  the  present,  we  will  leave  the  rear 

The  main  bodies  of  the  divisions  reached  their  destina- 
tions at  Feignies,  La  Longueville  and  Bavai  between  9 
and  10  P.M.,  with  no  further  mishap  than  the  loss  of  tools 
and  other  articles  which  had  been  unloaded  by  the  regi- 
mental transport  and  could  not  be  re-loaded  in  time.  None 
the  less,  the  men  were  extremely  fatigued  ;  they  had  had 
little  rest  for  over  sixty  hours  ;  the  country  was  close  and 
cramped,  and  the  day  had  been  exceedingly  hot ;  there  had 

1  As  will  be  seen  in  the  account  of  the  German  operations  on  the  24th, 
no  orders  were  issued  for  pursuit  in  this  part  of  the  field  till  8  A.M. 

90  MONS 

been  constant  deployments  and  labour  at  entrenching — 
inseparable  from  a  retreat ;  so  that  the  men  suffered  greatly 
from  weariness  and  want  of  sleep.  Yet  one  battalion 
commander  records  on  this  date  :  -  :t  We  had  marched 
"  59  miles  in  the  last  64  hours,  beginning  the  march  in 
"  the  middle  of  an  entirely  sleepless  night  and  getting  only 
"  8  hours  altogether  during  the  other  two  nights.  Many 
"  men  could  hardly  put  one  leg  before  another,  yet  they  all 
"  marched  in  singing.  The  other  battalions  of  the  brigade 
"  did  not  arrive  till  long  after  dark,  but  they  also  marched 
"  in  singing." 


Maps  3, 6,  The  comparative  ease  with  which  the  I.  Corps  was  able 
&  7  to  withdraw  was  far  from  reassuring,  for  it  might  indicate 
that  the  Germans  intended  to  make  a  decisive  turning 
effort  further  west,  as,  indeed,  was  their  plan  ;  and  soon 
after  6  A.M.  an  aeroplane  which  had  been  sent  out  at 
dawn  brought  information  that  was  not  calculated  to 
diminish  the  anxiety  of  the  Commander-in-Chief : — A 
column,  from  five  to  ten  miles  long,  had  been  seen  at 
4.30  A.M.  moving  south  from  Leuze  towards  Peruwelz, 
having  changed  direction,  at  Leuze,  off  the  road  that  runs 
westward  from  Ath  to  Tournai.  This  could  hardly  mean 
anything  less  than  a  German  division  ; x  and  the  line  of 
march  from  Peruwelz  to  Conde  would  carry  it  to  the  west 
of  the  extreme  western  flank  of  the  British  Army.  Nothing, 
however,  was  known  of  this  at  4  A.M.  at  the  commencement 
of  the  British  retreat ;  and  the  first  movements  of  the  II. 
Corps  were  naturally  made  in  complete  ignorance  of  it. 
General  Smith-Dorrien,  in  pursuance  of  the  Commander- 
in-Chief's  original  orders,  had  made  his  dispositions  before 
dawn  to  withstand  another  German  attack  on  the  ground  on 
which  his  corps  had  spent  the  night.  These  dispositions 
proved  of  advantage  for  gaining  time  when  the  instructions 
to  retire  arrived  ;  for,  before  the  II.  Corps  could  retreat, 
it  was  imperative  that  the  roads  should  be  cleared  of  all 
transport  and  impedimenta,  and  the  orders  to  that  effect 
did  not  filter  down  to  the  brigades  of  the  3rd  Division 
before  4.30  A.M.  Meanwhile,  before  dawn,  the  Germans 
had  already  opened  a  heavy  bombardment  against  the 
right  of  the  II.  Corps  ;  and  within  an  hour  the  fire  extended 
westwards  along  the  whole  length  of  the  line,  and  by 
1  It  was  the  //.  Corps  (see  "  Mons,"  Sketch  2). 


5.15  A.M.  a  general  infantry  attack  was  rapidly  developing.  24  Aug. 
At  5.30  A.M.  the  commander  of  the  3rd  Division  became   1914- 
aware  that  the  main  body  of  the  I.  Corps  was  retiring,  and 
sent  a  staff  officer  to  reconnoitre  a  second  position  further 
to  the  south.     Half  an  hour  later  he  despatched  orders  to 
the  8th  Infantry  Brigade,  the  right  of  his  line,  to  withdraw 
from  Nouvelles.1 

Beyond  the  shelling,  which  did  no  damage,  the  8th 
Infantry  Brigade  had  been  little  troubled  ;  the  German 
infantry  did  not  show  itself  at  all ;  and  at  8  A.M.  the 
brigade  began  its  march  southward  upon  Genly.  The 
7th  Infantry  Brigade  about  Ciply,  and  the  9th  Infantry 
Brigade  at  Frameries,  when  they  began  to  move  in  their 
turn,  did  not  escape  quite  so  easily.  The  Germans  were 
evidently  bent  upon  holding  them  to  their  ground  for  a 
time,  and  about  6  A.M.  launched  their  infantry  in  dense 
waves  to  the  attack.  They  were  thrown  back  with 
heavy  loss  by  the  South  Lancashire  and  the  Lincolnshire 
Regiments,  who  formed  the  rear  guards  of  these  two 
brigades;  the  109th  Battery  also  found  excellent  tar- 
gets in  the  masses  of  the  enemy  visible  behind  the 

1  The  following  message  from  the  II.  Corps  to  the  5th  Division  gives  a 
good  idea  of  the  situation  about  7  A.M.  : 

To  5th  Division.  From  II.  Corps. 

G.  313.  24th  [August  1914]. 

First  Corps  are  retiring  from  their  line  Peissant — Haulchin — Har- 
mignies  to  positions  at  Villers  Sire  Nicole  and  Quevy  le  Petit  aaa  Sixth 
Infantry  Brigade  moving  to  position  about  cross  roads  one  mile  west  of 
Harveng  aaa  All  these  positions  are  to  cover  retirement  of  Third  Division 
when  that  becomes  necessary  aaa  Fifth  Cavalry  Brigade  to  Harveng 
with  detachment  and  battery  at  Harmignies  aaa  Third  Division  right 
flank  will  probably  fall  back  to  Harveng  early  aaa  When  Third  Division 
is  forced  to  retire  or  ordered  to  retire  it  will  take  up  position  about  Sars  la 
Bruyere  aaa  Your  retirement  will  have  to  be  more  or  less  simultaneous 
and  you  should  at  once  send  to  reconnoitre  a  position  if  possible  about 
Blaugies  and  Montignies  sur  Roc  or  where  you  can  find  it  aaa  Your  roads 
of  retirement  will  be  those  described  to  Colonel  Romer  [General  Staff  of 
5th  Division]  and  in  addition  that  through  Blaugies  and  Erquennes  to 
Hergies  but  not  through  second  I  of  Pissotiau  [that  is  west  of  the  Blaugies 
— Erquennes — Hergies  road]  which  belongs  to  Third  Division  aaa  If 
you  feel  yourself  sufficiently  strong  where  you  are  you  might  send  a  brigade 
or  less  back  to  your  next  position  to  prepare  it  aaa  We  cannot  tell  when 
Third  Division  will  have  to  retire  to  Sars  la  Bruyere  but  hope  that  it  will 
at  least  not  be  for  two  or  three  hours. 


7.15  A.M. 

Copy  handed  to  Col.  Maurice  [G.S.  3rd  Division]. 

One  by  tel. 
One  by  officer. 

92  MONS 

front  line.  About  9  A.M.  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade  fell 
back,  in  perfect  order,  through  the  town  of  Frameries, 
where  there  was  some  sharp  fighting  before  the  troops  got 
clear  of  the  streets,  and  marched  southward  upon  Sars  la 
Bruyere.  The  7th  Infantry  Brigade  held  on  for  a  little 
longer,  and  the  South  Lancashire  were  enfiladed  by  machine 
guns  from  the  slag-heaps  about  Frameries,  and  lost  between 
two  and  three  hundred  men  before  this  brigade  also  was 
withdrawn  towards  Genly.  The  Germans  made  no  attempt 
to  press  them  ;  indeed,  they  handled  the  3rd  Division  on 
this  day  with  singular  respect.  It  had,  in  fact,  though  it 
was  not  appreciated  at  the  time,  inflicted  on  them  very 
heavy  losses. 


The  German  accounts  of  the  fighting  at  Frameries 
are  so  greatly  to  the  credit  of  the  British  Expeditionary 
Force,  that  they  are  worth  recording  here. 

The  attack  on  the  Lincolnshire  and  South  Lancashire 
was  made  by  a  whole  German  division — the  6th  of  the 
///.  Corps.  There  is  a  detailed  account  of  the  action  by 
Hauptmann  von  Brandis  of  the  24th  (Brandenburg)  Regi- 
ment.1 He  says  : — 

"  Our  artillery  is  to  prepare  the  assault.  ...  A  con- 
"  tinuous  stream  of  gun  and  howitzer  shell  thunders  out, 
"  hurtling  and  howling  over  our  heads,  and  bursting  in  dust 
"  and  smoke  on  the  edge  of  the  village  [Frameries].  No 
"  human  beings  could  possibly  live  there.  At  7  A.M.  six 
"companies  of  the  regiment  advance  to  the  attack.  We 
"  remain  impatiently  in  reserve.  ...  If  we  thought  that 
"  the  English  had  been  shelled  enough  to  be  storm-ripe,  we 
"  were  fairly  mistaken.  They  met  us  with  well-aimed  fire." 

His  company  was  then  sent  up  to  reinforce.  As  it 
reached  the  firing  line,  the  men  shout  "  Vorwarts  "  expect- 
ing to  carry  it  with  them,  but  no  one  rose.  "  There  were 
"  only  dead  and  wounded  to  be  seen.  Tommy  seems  to  have 
"waited  for  the  moment  of  the  assault.  He  had  carefully 
"  studied  our  training  manuals,  and  suddenly,  when  we  were 
"  well  in  the  open,  he  turned  his  machine  guns  on."  It  was 
only  however  rapid  rifle  fire.  The  assault  failing,  the  village 
was  shelled  again,  and  the  attack  renewed  with  larger 
forces.  Eventually  the  Germans  entered  Frameries  and 
found  no  defenders  there. 

1  In  his  book  "  Die  Sturmer  von  Douaumont." 


"  Up  to  all  the  tricks  of  the  trade  from  their  experience  24  Aug. 
"  of  small  wars,  the  English  veterans  brilliantly  understood   1914 
"  how  to  slip  off  at  the  last  moment."     Of  the  casualties 
he  says  :  "  Our  battalion  alone  lost  three  company  com- 
"manders,  and,  besides,  every  second   officer  and   every 
"  third  man." 

Captain  Liebenow  of  the  64th  Infantry  Regiment,  of 
the  same  brigade  as  von  Brandis,  states *•  that  his  battalion 
at  Frameries  lost  "  the  adjutant,  every  fourth  man  and, 
"  of  three  companies,  every  lieutenant." 

Captain  Heubner,  of  the  20th  Infantry  Regiment,2 
states :  "  many  of  our  companies  had  heavy  losses  in  the 
"attack  on  Frameries.  ...  As  on  the  previous  day,  the 
"  English  again  vanished  without  leaving  a  trace  (spurlos)" 


It  was  in  the  section  immediately  to  the  west  of  Frameries  Maps  o 
that  trouble  was  first  experienced.  The  right  of  the  5th  *  7> 
Division  at  Paturages,  in  the  midst  of  the  sea  of  mining 
villages,  was  held  by  three  battalions  of  the  5th  Infantry 
Brigade,  and  one,  the  Bedfords,  of  the  15th.  The  German 
guns  opened  their  bombardment  before  dawn,  and  con- 
tinued it  steadily  for  some  four  hours,  though  to  little 
purpose.  The  enemy  infantry  meanwhile  fell  upon  a 
company  of  the  Bedfords  near  Paturages,  and  a  very  lively 
fight  followed  without  definite  result.  Meanwhile,  further 
to  the  west,  the  Dorsets  (15th  Infantry  Brigade,  but 
detached  with  the  13th)  were  well  entrenched  along  the 
railway  to  the  north-west  of  Wasmes,  with  two  guns  of  the 
121st  Battery  dug  in  near  their  extreme  left.  Still  further 
to  the  left,  in  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade,  the  2/ Yorkshire 
Light  Infantry  was  coming  into  position  with  the  37th 
Howitzer  Battery  level  with  it.  The  2/Duke  of  Welling- 
ton's, which  was  shortly  to  relieve  the  I/Dorset,  and  the 
1 /Royal  West  Kent  were  in  Wasmes ;  the  2/Scottish 
Borderers  was  on  the  left  at  Champ  des  Sarts.  The  I/Norfolk 
and  1 /Cheshire  of  the  15th  Infantry  Brigade,  together  with 
the  119th  Battery,  were  ordered  to  Dour  (two  miles  south- 
west) as  divisional  reserve.  The  XXVII.  Brigade  R.F.A.3 

1  In  a  letter  to  "  The  Times  Literary  Supplement,"  4th  September 

2  In  his  book  "  Unter  Emmich  vor  Liittich,  Unter  Kluck  vor  Paris." 

3  Less  the  119th  Battery. 

94  MONS 

was  about  Champ  des  Sarts ;  the  VIII.  Howitzer  Brigade 
(less  the  37th  Battery)  to  the  right  and  in  advance  of 
it ;  and  the  XXVIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  was  to  the  left  of 
it,  to  the  north  of  Dour. 

In  this  section  of  the  line  the  enemy  began  operations 
at  dawn  by  bombarding  the  northern  edge  of  St.  Ghislain 
for  two  hours,  after  which  he  pushed  his  patrols  forward 
and  ascertained  that  the  place  had  been  evacuated  by  the 
British.1  The  infantry2  then  crossed  the  Canal  by  some 
of  the  foot-bridges  still  left  standing ;  and  a  battalion  and 
a  half,  hastening  through  the  deserted  streets,  deployed 
from  the  southern  edge  of  Hornu,  the  next  village,  opposite 
Champ  des  Sarts.  The  two  advanced  guns  of  the  121st 
Battery,  which  had  opened  fire,  were  quickly  compelled 
to  retire  by  the  enemy's  machine  guns  ;  but  the  Dor  sets 
and  the  37th  Battery  brought  the  German  advance  to  an 
abrupt  standstill  with  considerable  loss. 

At  9  A.M.  the  three  battalions  of  the  5th  Infantry 
Brigade  on  the  right  of  the  5th  Division  at  Paturages,  in 
accordance  with  their  orders  from  the  I.  Corps,  began  to 
withdraw  by  Culot  and  Eugies  southward  upon  Sars  la 
Bruyere.  Roused  at  4  A.M.  the  Worcestershire  and  the 
H.L.I,  had  dug  in  on  the  front  line,  whilst  the  Oxfords 
entrenched  a  position  in  rear  to  cover  retirement.  Though 
under  shell  fire  not  one  of  them  had  fired  a  shot  nor  seen  a 
German,  but  their  retirement  at  once  brought  trouble  upon 
the  denuded  right  flank  of  the  II.  Corps,  where  stood  the 
Bedfords.  A  detachment  of  the  Dorsets  filled  the  vacant 
place  for  the  moment,  and  the  resistance  was  for  the  time 
maintained  ;  the  Germans  were  evidently  less  concerned 
to  drive  the  British  back  than  to  hold  them  to  their  ground. 

None  the  less,  they  were  not  content  to  be  checked  at 
the  exits  of  Hornu.  Again  and  again  they  tried  to  de- 
bouch, but  without  success,  the  37th  Battery  working  great 
havoc  among  them.  It  seems  that  the  Germans  must  have 
lost  heavily,  for  the  Brandenburg  Grenadiers^  though  ex- 
hausted and  thinned  by  the  engagement  of  the  previous 
day,  were  hastily  called  up  to  reinforce  the  firing  line.3 

1  Writing  of  the  advance  through  St.  Ghislain  on  the  24th,  Hauptmann 
Bloem  (p.  153)  writes  :   "  Truly,  our  artillery  shot  famously  this  night  and 
this  morning  "  ;    and  he  says  that  the  town  looked  "  as  if  it  had  been 
visited  by  a  whirlwind." 

2  gth  Division. 

8  Of  the  approach  to  Hornu,  Hauptmann  Bloem  says  (p.  156)  that  his 
battalion  was  fired  on  by  gun  and  rifles  whilst  it  was  in  column  of  march, 
and  the  regimental  adjutant  brought  him  the  order  :  "  The  52nd  in  front 
are  heavily  engaged  and  require  reinforcement  at  any  cost.  Haste  is 


Meanwhile,  the  German  artillery  had  for  some  time  been  24  Aug. 
shelling  Wasmes  furiously,  causing  some  loss  in  the  13th  1914< 
Infantry  Brigade  both  to  the  Duke's  and  to  the  West  Kents ; 
but  the  former,  as  has  been  told,  had  been  withdrawn  to 
relieve  the  Dorsets,  and  shortly  afterwards  two  companies 
of  the  West  Kents  were  also  shifted  eastwards  to  fill  a  gap 
between  the  Duke's  and  the  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry.  The 
German  guns  then  turned  with  fury  upon  the  British 
batteries,  and  the  XXVII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  at  Champ  des 
Sarts  was  compelled  to  withdraw  under  heavy  fire.  But 
here,  once  again,  the  enemy  did  not  seriously  press  the 
attack  of  his  infantry ;  he  had  already  lost  too  heavily. 

On  the  front  of  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade,  on  the  left 
of  the  13th,  all  was  quiet.  Still  further  to  the  west,  the 
19th  Infantry  Brigade  had  received  orders  from  G.H.Q.  at 
midnight  to  fall  back  to  Elouges,  six  miles  south-east,  and 
at  2  A.M.  it  began  its  march  upon  that  village  by  Hensies 
and  Quievrain.  At  the  same  hour,  the  French  84th 
Territorial  Division  evacuated  Conde  and  commenced  its 
retirement  towards  Cambrai.  At  dawn  the  Cavalry 
Division,  which  was  in  rear  of  the  left,  began  to  move  ; 
General  Allenby,  finding  that  the  Germans  were  in  great 
strength  on  his  left,  decided  to  withdraw  some  distance, 
and  sent  a  message  to  Sir  Charles  Fergusson  to  that 
effect ;  but,  on  hearing  from  him  that  the  5th  Division  was 
to  hold  its  ground,  agreed  to  cover  its  left  flank.  A  Map  8. 
squadron  of  the  9th  Lancers,  feeling  its  way  forward  to 
Thulin,  the  left  of  the  II.  Corps,  found  the  enemy  at  the 
northern  edge  of  the  town  and  engaged  him.  Meanwhile, 
the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  had  taken  up  a  position  south  of 
the  main  highway  to  Valenciennes  and  astride  the  road 
from  Thulin  to  Elouges  ;  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  was  on 
the  railway  to  its  left ;  the  3rd  to  the  left  rear  of  the  1st 
near  a  sugar  factory  about  a  thousand  yards  south-east  of 
Quievrain,  and  the  4th  at  Sebourg,  about  five  miles  further 
south.  There  they  remained  until  the  19th  Infantry 
Brigade  had  been  withdrawn,  when  it  passed  under 

imperative."  Bloem  cannot  believe  his  observer  when  he  reports  "  Herr 
Hauptmann,  the  enemy  is  retiring."  "  What — what  do  you  say — the 
enemy  is  retiring.  You  mean  he  is  advancing."  .  .  .  "In  the  thick 
masses  everybody  rushes  forward,  Grenadiers  and  Fusiliers,  men  of  all 
companies  mixed  up  ...  we  jump  into  the  English  trenches.  .  .  . 
Suddenly  something  awful  happens."  They  are  immediately  heavily 
shelled  by  their  own  artillery. 

No  casualties  for  Bloem's  regiment  for  this  action  can  be  found  in  the 
official  lists  for  1914. 

96  MONS 

General  Allenby's  command,  and  was  halted  at  Baisieux, 
two  miles  south-west  of  Elouges,  to  the  vicinity  of  which 
the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  also  retired.  Meanwhile,  the 
advanced  squadron  of  the  9th  Lancers  was  disputing  the 
advance  of  the  Germans  from  Thulin,  and  inflicting  some 
loss  upon  them,  though  all  the  time  falling  back  upon  its 
main  body.  About  6  A.M.  German  guns  opened  fire  upon 
that  main  body  from  the  neighbourhood  of  Thulin,  and 
about  7  A.M.  German  infantry  and  artillery — of  the  7th 
Division  of  the  IV.  Corps — were  seen  moving  westward 
along  the  highway  to  Valenciennes.  One  party  turning 
southward,  came  down  the  road  towards  Elouges  in  column 
of  route,  and,  after  suffering  severely  from  the  rifles  of  the 
18th  Hussars  and  9th  Lancers  upon  either  side  of  it, 
deployed  and  advanced  upon  a  wide  front. 

Thereupon,  General  Allenby,  ordering  the  road  Elouges 
— Audregnies — Angre — Roisin  (five  miles  south  of  Elouges) 
to  be  left  open  for  the  retreat  of  the  5th  Division,  began 
about  9  A.M.  to  withdraw  his  troops  slowly  southward. 
Though  he  had  sent  three  officers,  one  of  them  in  a  motor 
car,  to  ascertain  whether  the  5th  Division  had  begun  its 
retirement,  not  one  of  these  messengers  had  yet  returned. 
Accordingly,  he  made  his  dispositions  for  retreat  with  due 
precautions  for  the  safety  of  the  left  flank  of  the  Army. 
The  19th  Infantry  Brigade  was  directed  to  fall  back  and 
take  up  a  position  at  Rombies  (three  miles  south-west  of 
Baisieux  and  about  seven  south  of  Conde),  and  then  the 
Cavalry  Division  began  to  withdraw,  by  successive 
brigades,  in  the  same  direction.  In  order  to  delay  the 
enemy's  advance  to  the  utmost,  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade, 
which  formed  the  rear  guard,  utilized  the  sunken  roads, 
mineral  railways  and  slag-heaps  that  broke  up  the  ground 
between  the  Mons — Valenciennes  road  on  the  north  and  the 
villages  of  Elouges  and  Audregnies  on  the  south.  It  was 
supported  by  L  Battery  R.H.A.,  which  was  in  position  in 
the  middle  of  the  area  behind  the  railway  between  Elouges 
and  Quievrain.  It  was  very  heavily  shelled  as  it  retired, 
but  fortunately  little  harm  was  done,  and  there  was  no 
real  pressure  from  the  enemy.  By  11.30  A.M.  the  very 
last  parties  had  come  in,  and  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  was 
moving  through  Audregnies  upon  Angre,  the  18th  Hussars 
bringing  up  the  rear. 

9  A.M.  TO  2  P.M.  97 

9  A.M.  to  1  P.M. 

So  much  for  the  first  moves  of  the  great  retreat.  The  24  Aug. 
succeeding  hours  of  the  24th  August  likewise  passed  with-  1914- 
out  serious  trouble  on  the  right  of  the  Army.  General  Maps  6 
Home's  rear  guard  had,  as  related,1  taken  up  a  position  on  &  7- 
a  front  of  three  miles  facing  north-east,  with  its  right  on 
the  road  from  Mons  to  Maubeuge,  about  a  mile  north  of 
Bonnet,  with  its  left  near  Genly.  About  10.30  A.M.  the 
8th  Infantry  Brigade  came  in  on  its  western  flank.  The 
7th  Infantry  Brigade,  assembling  at  Genly  from  Ciply  and 
Nouvelles,  passed  through  the  8th  on  its  way  to  Blaregnies, 
where  it — or,  at  any  rate,  some  part  of  it — halted  and 
faced  about.  About  11  A.M.  the  5th  Infantry  Brigade2 
likewise  joined  the  8th  on  the  western  side,  forming  up  in 
depth  from  Eugies  to  Sars  la  Bruyere.  The  9th  Infantry 
Brigade  made  its  way,  as  indeed,  from  the  direction  of  the 
roads,  was  inevitable,  to  the  same  point ;  and  there  the 
3rd  Division,  together  with  General  Home's  rear  guard, 
waited  until  far  into  the  afternoon.  There  was  no  pressure 
whatever  upon  them.  Indeed,  at  11  A.M.  General  Home 
reported  that  the  special  responsibility  of  his  rear  guard 
was  at  an  end,  and  that  he  proposed  to  return  his  troops  to 
their  divisions.  But,  soon  after  1  P.M.,  a  message  came  in 
to  the  I.  Corps  Headquarters  from  the  II.  Corps  that  the 
retreat  of  the  5th  Division  on  the  left  was  delayed,  and 
that  meanwhile  the  3rd  Division  would  stand  fast.  Sir 
Douglas  Haig  directed  his  rear  guard  to  conform  with  the 
movements  of  the  3rd  Division ;  it  therefore  remained  in 
its  position,  little  troubled  or  threatened,  but  stationary. 
We  will  now  turn  westward  again  and  see  what  had  delayed 
the  retirement  of  the  5th  Division. 

9  A.M.  to  2  P.M. 

We  left  the  Dorsets  and  Bedfords  at  Paturages  cover-  Maps  o 
ing  the  right  of  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade,  which  was  &  7- 
engaging  the  enemy  issuing  from  the   southern  exits   of 
Hornu.     After  the  withdrawal  of  the  5th  Infantry  Brigade 

1  See  p.  89. 

2  That  is  to  say,  the  three  battalions  which  had  been  at  Paturages. 
The  remaining  battalion  (2/Connaught  Rangers)  was  with  the  4th  (Guards) 

VOL.  I  H 

98  MONS 

on  their  right,  it  was  evident  that  these  two  battalions 
could  not  maintain  themselves  in  such  a  position  for  long, 
and  at  10.30  A.M.  Brigadier-General  Count  Gleichen  began 
the  somewhat  awkward  operation  of  withdrawing  them 
westward  through  Paturages.  It  was  none  too  soon.  The 
first  line  transport  of  the  Dorsets,  retiring  by  La  Bouverie 
on  its  way  to  Blaugies,  six  miles  north  of  Bavai,  was 
caught  in  an  ambush  by  the  Germans,1  but  managed  to 
extricate  itself  with  little  loss  ;  and  at  11  A.M.  the  Bed- 
fords  on  the  right  (south  of  the  railway  line  from  Wasmes 
to  Frameries),  and  the  Dorsets  on  the  left  began  their 
movement  south-west  across  the  rear  of  the  13th  Infantry 
Brigade,  towards  Petit  Wasmes  and  Warquignies.  They 
had  some  sharp  fighting,  in  which  British  marksmanship 
seems  to  have  told  its  usual  tale,  before  they  could  clear 
themselves  from  the  streets  ;  part  of  the  Bedfords,  acting 
as  escort  to  the  divisional  artillery,  struck  due  south  from 
Warquignies,  and  made  their  way  to  St.  Waast  les 
Bavay.2  The  remainder  marched  to  Athis,  west  of 
Blaugies,  and  the  bulk  of  the  Dorsets  to  Blaugies  itself, 
where  both  halted,  the  time  being  about  2  P.M. 

Meanwhile,  about  11  A.M.,  Sir  Charles  Fergusson 
received  a  message  from  the  II.  Corps,  giving  him  dis- 
cretion to  fall  back  as  soon  as  the  troops  on  his  right  had 
retired  ;  finding  that  they  had  already  gone  and  that  the 
enemy  was  working  round  his  right  flank,  he  proceeded  to 
follow  their  example.  The  13th  Infantry  Brigade  was 
holding  its  own  with  no  great  difficulty,  though  the  enemy 
was  shelling  the  2/Duke  of  Wellington's  on  the  right  and 
inflicting  considerable  loss  ;  he  was  however  doing  little 
mischief  to  the  2/ Yorkshire  Light  Infantry,  and  still  re- 
frained from  any  serious  infantry  attack.  The  14th 
Infantry  Brigade,  on  the  left  of  the  13th,  was  left  in  com- 
parative quiet ;  the  2/Manchester,  part  of  which  had  been 
moved  up  to  the  left  of  the  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry, 
alone  being  under  heavy  artillery  fire.  This  brigade  began 
the  withdrawal  by  successive  battalions,  with  little  inter- 
ference from  the  enemy,  and  formed  up  at  Blaugies  to 
cover  the  retreat  of  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade.  The  latter 
was  allowed  to  fall  back  without  serious  trouble.  The 
VIII.  Howitzer  Brigade  withdrew  at  once;  the  XXVIII. 
Brigade  R.F.A.  left  a  section  of  each  battery  behind  to 

1  Part  of  the  20th  Regiment  of  the  6th  Division,  it  appears,  had  pressed 
on  (see  "  Mons  "),  between  Frameries  and  Paturages. 

2  On  some  maps  St.  Waast  la  Vallee,  two  miles  west  of  Bavai. 


support  the  infantry  rear  guards ;  and  the  operations  24  Aug. 
seem  to  have  proceeded  with  little  or  no  interference  from  1914- 
the  German  infantry.  One  German  battery  did,  indeed, 
come  into  action  in  the  open  at  three  thousand  yards' 
range,  but  was  quickly  silenced.  Only  in  one  quarter  does 
the  German  infantry  appear  to  have  advanced  in  earnest. 
By  some  mishap,  the  order  to  retreat  did  not  reach  the 
2/Duke's,  which  accordingly  remained  in  position,  with 
a  battery  of  the  XXVII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  close  to  it. 
About  11.30  A.M.,  exactly  the  time  when  the  order  should 
have  affected  the  Duke's,  the  Germans  suddenly  con- 
centrated a  tremendous  fire  upon  this  battery  from  guns 
which  they  had  brought  up  to  close  range.  A  sharp  fight 
followed  during  the  next  hour  and  a  half,  and  it  was 
only  the  rifles  of  the  infantry  that  saved  the  British 
battery.  About  1  P.M.  the  Germans  debouched  in  thick 
skirmishing  formation  followed  by  dense  masses  from  the 
Boussu — Quievrain  road  on  the  left  front  of  the  British 
battalion,  but  were  greeted  by  such  a  rain  of  bullets  from 
rifles  and  machine  guns  at  800  yards,  and  such  a  salute 
from  the  battery  that  they  stopped  dead.  Under  cover  of 
this  final  stroke,  the  guns  limbered  up  and  the  battalion 
withdrew  south-west  into  Dour.  The  Duke's  had  suffered 
heavily,  their  casualties  reaching  nearly  four  hundred 
of  all  ranks,  but  they  had  driven  back  six  battalions.1 
By  2  P.M.  the  13th  and  14th  Infantry  Brigades  were 
assembled  at  Warquignies  and  Blaugies,  respectively, 
ready  to  continue  their  retreat  to  their  places  in  the  new 
position  :  St.  Waast  (2  miles  west  of  Bavai)  and  Eth 
(4  miles  west  and  a  little  north  of  St.  Waast). 


But  the  5th  Division  was  not  destined  to  march  so  far  Map  8. 
to  the  south-west  as  Eth.  Hardly  had  the  13th  and  14th 
Infantry  Brigades  begun  their  retreat,  when  Sir  Charles 
Fergusson  became  aware  that  the  withdrawal  of  the 
cavalry  and  19th  Infantry  Brigade  had  been  premature, 
and  that  his  left  flank  was  seriously  threatened  by  German 
forces  of  considerable  strength  advancing  due  south 
between  Tliulin  and  Conde.2  At  11.45  A.M.  he  sent  an 
urgent  message  to  the  Cavalry  Division  to  come  to  his 

1  66th  and  26th  Regiments  of  the  7th  Division  (see  "  Mons,"  Sketch  5). 
It  should  be  recalled  that  a  German  infantry  regiment  contained  three 

2  The  whole  IV.  Corps. 

100  MONS 

assistance,  and  at  the  same  time  placed  the  1/Norfolks 
and  I/Cheshire,  together  with  the  119th  Battery,  all  of 
which  were  still  in  reserve  near  Divisional  Headquarters 
at  Dour,  under  the  command  of  Colonel  Ballard  of  the 
Norfolk  Regiment.  The  first  orders  given  to  this  officer 
were  to  advance  north  and  counter-attack.  Accordingly, 
he  moved  his  troops  northward  for  half  a  mile  till  a  staff 
officer  came  up  and  directed  them  to  be  moved  westward 
into  position  along  the  Elouges — Audregnies — Angre  road, 
down  which,  as  we  have  seen,  the  rear  guard  of  the  Cavalry 
Division  had  already  retired.  Thither,  accordingly,  they 
marched.  Meanwhile,  General  Allenby  had  received 
General  Fergusson's  message  about  noon,  and  responded 
instantly  by  sending  back  the  2nd  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades 
to  the  vicinity  of  Audregnies,  which  brought  them  within 
a  couple  of  miles  of  Colonel  Ballard.  The  18th  Hussars, 
who  had  just  quitted  their  position  of  the  forenoon, 
returned  ;  L  Battery  came  up  next  at  a  rapid  trot,  and 
halted  just  to  the  west  of  Elouges ;  whilst  the  9th 
Lancers  formed  up  by  the  road  immediately  to  north 
of  that  village,  with  the  4th  Dragoon  Guards  in  rear. 
Simultaneously,  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  which  was 
nearing  Rombies,  faced  about  and,  hastening  back, 
occupied  a  position  on  the  ridge  immediately  west  of 

The  scene  of  the  action  which  was  about  to  take  place 
is  an  irregular  parallelogram,  bounded  on  the  north  by 
the  great  highway  from  Mons  to  Valenciennes,  on  the  east 
by  the  Elouges  rivulet,  on  the  south  by  the  road  from 
Elouges  to  Audregnies,  and  on  the  west  by  the  valley  of 
the  Honnelle  :  a  space,  roughly  speaking,  about  three 
thousand  yards  from  north  to  south,  by  five  thousand  from 
east  to  west.  From  south  to  north  the  ground  forms  a 
perfect  natural  glacis,  at  this  time  covered  with  corn- 
stooks.  Across  the  parallelogram  runs  the  railway  from 
Elouges  to  QuieVrain,  for  the  most  part  sunk  in  cutting 
and  bordered  upon  each  side  by  a  quickset  hedge.  About 
a  thousand  yards  to  the  south,  a  mineral  railway  runs 
parallel  with  it  for  about  half  its  length,  and  then  comes 
to  an  abrupt  end  in  a  group  of  cottages.  More  or  less 
parallel  to  the  Honnelle,  the  old  Roman  Road,  famous  under 
the  name  of  the  Chaussee  Brunehaut,  runs  straight  as  an 
arrow  north-west  from  Audregnies,  cutting  the  great 
highway  about  a  thousand  yards  east  of  Quievrain.  Upon 
this  road,  about  a  mile  and  a  quarter  north  of  Audregnies, 

fiLOUGES  101 

stood  a  sugar-factory,  and,  immediately  to  the  east  of  it,  24  Aug. 
a  cluster  of  high  slag-heaps.  1914. 

It  was  now  about  12.30  P.M.  Colonel  Ballard's  force 
was  just  taking  up  its  ground,  facing  nearly  west,  the 
Norfolks  on  the  right,  with  their  right  resting  on  the  rail- 
way from  Elouges  to  Quievrain,  and  the  Cheshire  on  the 
left,  carrying  the  line  to  the  northern  outskirts  of 
Audregnies,  and  securing  touch  with  the  cavalry.  All 
had,  so  far,  been  comparatively  quiet,  when  a  sudden 
burst  of  fire,  both  of  guns  and  rifles,  from  the  north-west, 
gave  warning  that  the  Germans  were  opening  their  attack. 
It  developed  in  two  distinct  columns,  one  from  Quievrain, 
the  other  from  the  Bois  de  Deduit  and  Baisieux  south-east 
upon  Audregnies.  General  de  Lisle  (2nd  Cavalry  Brigade), 
galloping  to  the  9th  Lancers,  instructed  the  commanding 
officer  to  deliver,  if  necessary,  a  mounted  attack  northwards 
in  order  to  take  the  German  advance  in  flank ;  whilst 
L  Battery,  finding  no  suitable  forward  position  near, 
wheeled  about  and  galloped  south,  coming  into  action 
behind  the  railway  just  to  the  east  of  Audregnies. 

Colonel  Campbell  ordered  the  9th  Lancers  to  advance, 
which  they  did  in  column  of  squadrons  at  the  gallop,  with 
two  troops  of  the  4th  Dragoon  Guards  echeloned  to  their 
left  rear.  Crossing  the  sunken  road  from  Baisieux  to 
Elouges  at  a  point  where  it  ran  level  with  the  ground,  they 
galloped  on,  speared  a  couple  of  German  scouts  near  the 
road,  and  caught  sight  of  a  few  more  taking  cover  among 
the  corn-stooks  ;  then,  their  advance  checked  by  the  fire 
of  nine  batteries,  they  hesitated.  Some  dismounted  by  the 
sugar-factory,  others  swept  round  to  the  right  and  back 
towards  Audregnies,  and  a  great  number,  retiring  along 
the  mineral  railway  towards  Elouges,  rallied  there  upon 
the  18th  Hussars.  Simultaneously,  a  squadron  of  the  4th 
Dragoon  Guards  galloped  down  a  narrow  lane  towards 
Baisieux,  in  order  to  seize  a  house  at  the  end  of  it,  and  thus 
to  cover  a  further  advance  upon  Quievrain.  As  it  went  it 
was  shattered  by  heavy  fire  of  rifles  and  shrapnel  and, 
though  the  cottage  was  eventually  reached  and  held,  the 
effort  led  to  no  result. 

The  advance  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  seems  to  have 
produced  some  moral  effect  in  delaying  the  progress  of 
the  German  attack,  and  so  gained  time  for  Colonel  Ballard's 
flank  guard  to  settle  down,  not,  indeed,  in  entrenchments— 
for  there  was  not  a  moment  to  spare  for  digging — but  in 
fair  natural  cover.  Probably  it  made  matters  easier  also 

102  MONS 

for  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  which  was  now  in  position 
further  south  about  Angre,  with  its  machine  guns  firing 
down  the  valley  on  Baisieux,  supported  by  the  1st  Cavalry 
Brigade  and  covered  by  the  guns  of  D  and  E  Batteries  in 
rear.  About  12.45  P.M.  the  action  became  serious,  with 
obvious  signs  of  an  enveloping  movement.  The  Germans 
had  at  least  seven  batteries  in  action  about  a  mile  north 
of  the  Valenciennes  road  towards  the  hamlet  of  La  Croix, 
and,  under  the  protection  of  their  shells,  the  main  body  of 
their  infantry — apparently  a  division  of  the  IV.  Corps1 — 
closed  up  on  to  the  advanced  guards  and  strove  to  carry 
the  advance  further.  Solid  masses  emerged  from  Quievrain 
and  from  a  small  wood  at  its  north-eastern  corner;  and 
dense  columns  came  streaming  down  the  three  broad  rides 
that  led  from  the  Bois  de  Deduit,  midway  between  Quie- 
vrain and  Baisieux,  into  the  open.  L  Battery  now  had  the 
chance  for  which  every  gunner  prays  ;  no  sooner  did  the 
Germans  show  themselves  than  it  opened  upon  them  with 
shrapnel,  bursting  its  shells  low,  with  an  accuracy  which 
literally  mowed  down  the  advancing  masses.  In  vain  they 
ran  back  to  cover,  rallied  and  endeavoured  to  press  forward. 
In  vain  four  German  batteries,  three  firing  shrapnel  and 
one  high  explosive,  strove  to  silence  the  exasperating  guns 
which  were  arresting  the  progress  of  the  infantry.  Their 
shrapnel  burst  high  and  scattered  harmless  bullets,  while 
their  high-explosive,  with  the  exception  of  one  shell  which 
caused  ten  casualties,  fell  wide  and  did  no  damage.  L 
Battery  was  not  to  be  silenced,  and  forbade,  under  heavy 
penalty,  any  hostile  advance  from  Quievrain. 

Colonel  Ballard's  infantry,  likewise,  seemed  secure  with 
a  perfect  natural  glacis  before  it ;  and  the  119th  Battery, 
which  was  in  position  south  of  Elouges,  not  less  so.  The 
fire  of  the  German  artillery  was  heavy,  but  its  shell,  for 
the  most  part,  went  over.  The  119th  Battery  answered 
the  German  guns  with  considerable  effect ;  and  the 
Norfolks  found  excellent  targets  in  the  German  infantry, 
who  strove  to  swarm  out  of  Quievrain,  while  the  Cheshire 
brought  both  rifles  and  machine  guns  to  bear  with  great 
execution  upon  the  masses  that  were  endeavouring  to 
debouch  from  the  Bois  de  Deduit.  The  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigade,  which  was  spared  all  artillery  fire,  likewise  held 
its  own  successfully  south  of  the  infantry,  before  Baisieux, 
and,  with  the  help  of  D  and  E  Batteries,  effectually  barred 

1  All   four   regiments,    twelve   battalions,    of  the   8th  Division  were 
engaged  ("Mons"). 


the  way  against  the  Germans  at  that  point.     The  baffled  24  Aug. 
enemy  then  tried  a  movement  still  further  to  the  south   1914° 
by   Marchipont,   but   was   stopped   by  the   5th  Dragoon 
Guards,  who  had  come  up,  from  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade, 
on  the  left  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade.     Everywhere  the 
Germans  were  checked.     The  first  effort  of  von  Kluck's 
enveloping  movement  was,  in  fact,  completely  and  victori- 
ously foiled. 

There  were,  however,  disquieting  signs  of  a  still  wider 
turning  movement  further  to  the  west  about  Quarouble 
(three  miles  south-west  of  Quievrain),  where  a  mass  of 
German  infantry,  thought  to  be  the  flank  guard  of  an 
army  corps1  could  be  seen  moving  steadily  to  the  south. 
Accordingly,  shortly  after  (about  2.30  P.M.)  Colonel  Ballard 
gave  the  order  to  retire. 


About  the  same  hour  the  troops  to  the  eastward  Maps  3 
were  also  set  in  motion  to  resume  the  retreat.  The  3rd  &  «• 
Division  marched  from  Genly — Sars  la  Bruyere  for  Bavai 
en  route  for  the  villages  to  the  south-west  of  that  town ; 
General  Home's  rear  guard,  on  its  right,  moved  last  of  all, 
not  until  about  4.30  P.M.  The  main  body  of  the  5th  Divi- 
sion struck  south  from  Blaugies  through  Athis  upon  Bavai 
and  St.  Waast,  its  place  in  the  selected  position  ;  and 
the  Cavalry  Division  also  prepared  to  withdraw,  the  1st 
Cavalry  Brigade  moving  up  to  Onnezies  to  cover  the  first 
rearward  bound  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  to  Angre.  Map  8. 
Meanwhile,  the  effect  of  the  advance  of  the  Germans  2  to 
the  east  of  Colonel  Ballard's  flank  guard  was  beginning 
to  be  felt,  and  the  119th  Battery,  between  the  fire  of  the 
three  German  batteries,  and  of  a  machine  gun  at  much 
closer  range,  was  suffering  considerably.  One  section,  the 
first  that  had  come  into  action,  fired  at  the  hostile  infantry 
until  it  was  within  eight  hundred  yards,  and  then,  with- 
drew. The  four  remaining  guns  were  brought  off  by  the 
battery  commander,  Major  Alexander,  one  at  a  time,  with 
the  help  of  a  party  of  the  9th  Lancers.3  The  Norfolks 

1  Actually  the  three  battalions  of  the  36th  Regiment  of  the  IV.  Corps. 

2  The  7th  Division  of  the  IV.  Corps. 

3  Major  Alexander  received  the  V.C.  for  "  handling  his  battery  against 
"  overwhelming  odds  with  such  conspicuous  success  that  all  his  guns  were 
"  saved,  notwithstanding  that  they  had  to  be  withdrawn  by  hand  by  him- 
"  self  and  three  other  men."     Captain  Francis  Grenfell,  9th  Lancers,  also 
received  the  V.C.  on  this  day  for  gallantry  in  action  and  for  assisting  to 
save  the  guns  of  the  119th  Battery. 

104  MONS 

then  fell  back  in  two  parties  under  a  continuous  hail  of 
shrapnel  bullets,  leaving  a  hundred  of  their  wounded 
behind  them  at  Elouges.  Most  unfortunately,  both  the 
second  in  command  and  the  adjutant  were  wounded  at 
this  critical  moment,  and  thus  one  platoon  in  an  advanced 
position  received  no  orders  to  retire. 

Colonel  Ballard  sent  to  the  Cheshire  three  separate 
messages  to  fall  back,  not  one  of  which  reached  them. 
The  major  of  L  Battery  also  received  no  orders,  but  seeing 
no  sign  of  the  Norfolks  and  having  fired  away  nearly  the 
whole  of  his  ammunition,  was  meditating  withdrawal  when 
the  brigade-major  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  arrived  and 
directed  him  to  bring  his  battery  out  of  action.  The  guns 
were  thereupon  run  down  close  under  the  screen  of  the 
railway  hedge  ;  the  limbers  were  brought  up  one  "by  one 
at  a  gallop  from  Audregnies  ;  and  the  battery  limbered  up 
and  got  away  without  further  mishap.  The  party  of  the 
4th  Dragoon  Guards  in  the  house  by  the  lane  then  retired 
also  ;  and  they,  together  with  L  Battery  and  the  main 
body  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  moved  off  south-west- 
ward upon  Ruesnes.  The  Cavalry  Division  had  mean- 
while fallen  back  towards  St.  Waast  and  Wargnies,  the 
4th  Cavalry  Brigade  being  further  to  the  west  between 
Saultain  and  Jenlain. 

The  Cheshire,  together  with  a  small  party  of  the 
Norfolks,  were  thus  left  alone.  The  commanding  officer 
of  the  former  was  unaware  of  the  general  retreat  of  the 
Army,  so  that  he  was  at  a  loss  to  know  what  was  expected 
of  him.  The  Germans  were  now  pressing  forward  rapidly 
upon  both  flanks,  and  about  4  P.M.,  while  making  disposi- 
tions to  meet  the  movement,  he  was  disabled  by  three 
wounds.  Shortly  before  this,  part  of  the  reserve  company 
of  the  Cheshire  at  Audregnies  had  been  ordered  by  a 
staff  officer  to  fall  back,  and,  after  vainly  striving  to  rejoin 
the  fighting  line  (which  was  rightly  forbidden)  made  its 
way  to  Athis.  Meanwhile,  as  the  Germans  came  closer, 
the  main  body  of  the  Cheshire  fell  back  to  the  Audregnies 
road,  where  they  were  fired  on  by  two  machine  guns 
placed  in  a  dip  in  the  ground,  a  couple  of  hundred  yards 
away.  These  were  promptly  silenced  by  the  machine 
guns  of  the  Cheshire,  a  little  party  of  whom  charged 
forward  with  the  bayonet  to  dislodge  the  enemy  from  this 
point  of  vantage.  The  Germans  turned  at  the  sight  of 
them,  and  during  this  short  respite  the  opportunity 
was  taken  to  draw  off  a  small  part  of  the  battalion  across 


country  to  Audregnies  wood,  which  they  reached  under  24  Aug. 
heavy  fire,  thence  making  their  way  to  Athis.  Then  1914- 
the  Germans,  seeing  how  few  were  their  assailants,  returned 
to  the  attack,  and  there  was  nothing  left  for  the  remainder 
of  the  Cheshire,  a  mere  handful  though  they  were,  but 
to  fight  to  the  last.  They  had  still  ammunition  and  could 
keep  up  rapid  fire,  and  though  by  this  time  separated  into 
at  least  three  groups,  they  continued  to  defend  them- 
selves desperately  until  nearly  7  P.M.  Then  at  last,  sur- 
rounded and  overwhelmed  on  all  sides,  they  laid  down 
their  arms.  Of  the  main  body  on  the  Audregnies  road, 
only  forty  remained  unwounded.  Their  captors  were  the 
72nd  Infantry  Regiment,  belonging  to  the  German  IV. 

The  troubles  of  the  small  party  that  had  escaped  were 
not  ended  on  the  battlefield.  The  enemy  broke  in 
from  Dour  during  their  retreat,  and  cut  off  a  few  of 
them  ;  and  at  Athis  only  one  hundred  of  them  could  be 
assembled.  The  indefatigable  gunners  of  the  5th  Divi- 
sional Artillery  came  into  action  along  the  line  Blaugies — 
Athis — Montignies,  and  again  further  to  the  south  at 
Houdain,  enabling  the  survivors  of  the  flank  guard  to 
reach  their  bivouac  at  St.  Waast  at  9  P.M.,  utterly  worn 
by  hunger,  fatigue  and  hard  fighting,  but  still  un- 
vanquished.  They  had  held  off  the  pursuit  of  a  whole 
German  corps  from  the  main  body  of  the  5th  Division,  but 
at  heavy  cost.  The  119th  Battery  had  lost  thirty  officers 
and  men  ;  the  Norfolks  over  two  hundred  and  fifty  officers 
and  men  ;  whilst  of  the  Cheshire,  who  in  the  morning 
had  mustered  nearly  a  thousand,  only  two  officers  and 
two  hundred  men  answered  their  names  at  St.  Waast. 

The  total  losses  on  the  24th  August  were  greater  than 
on  the  23rd,  and  amounted  to  roughly  250  in  the  Cavalry 
Division,  100  in  the  I.  Corps,  550  in  the  3rd  Division, 
1650  in  the  5th  Division  and  40  in  the  19th  Infantry 


Thus  ended  the  first  day  of  the  retreat.  All  circum- 
stances considered,  although  the  casualties  were  consider- 
able, the  operations  had  been  remarkably  successful. 
The  5th  Division  had,  indeed,  been  called  upon  not  only 
to  defend  six  miles  of  front,  but  also,  with  the  help  of  the 

106  MONS 

cavalry  and  of  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade,  to  parry  von 
Kluck's  enveloping  attack ;  but  it  had  triumphantly 
accomplished  its  task.  The  flanking  battalions  to  the 
east  and  west  had,  it  is  true,  suffered  much,  but  only  one 
had  been  actually  overwhelmed,  not  a  single  gun  had  been 
lost,  and  the  enemy  had  been  very  severely  punished. 
Our  troops  were  still  confident  that,  when  on  anything 
like  equal  terms,  they  were  more  than  a  match  for 
their  opponents  ;  the  one  trouble  that  really  oppressed 
them  was  want  of  sleep.  Long  after  nightfall  the 
battalions  of  the  3rd  Division  were  passing  the  cross  roads 
in  Bavai,  the  men  stumbling  along  more  like  ghosts  than 
living  soldiers,  unconscious  of  everything  about  them,  but 
still  moving  under  the  magic  impulse  of  discipline  and 
regimental  pride.  Marching,  they  were  hardly  awake ; 
halted,  whether  sitting  or  standing,  they  were  instantly 
asleep.  And  these  men  on  the  eastern  flank  of  the  corps 
had  done  little  fighting  and  endured  little  pressure  during 
the  day.  Even  worse  was  it  on  the  western  flank,  where 
cavalry  and  infantry  had  had  hard  fighting  from  dawn 
till  dusk,  and  many  a  man  had  been  for  over  twenty-four 
hours  without  sleep  or  food.  And  this,  it  must  be  borne 
in  mind,  was  only  the  beginning  of  the  retreat. 
Map  3.  The  general  disposition  of  the  Army  on  the  night  of  the 
24th/25th,  on  a  line  east  to  west  through  Bavai,  was  as 
follows : 

5th  Cavalry  Brigade  .        .        .  Feignies. 

I.  Corps : 

1st  Division     ....   Feignies,  La  Longueville. 
2nd  Division    ....   Bavai. 

II.  Corps : 

5th  Division     ....   Bavai,  St.  Waast. 

3rd  Division    .        .        .        .St.  Waast,  Amfroipret, 


Cavalry  Division  }     .        .St.  Waast,  Wargnies,1 

19th  Infantry  Brigade/     .        .  Jenlain,  Saultain. 

It  will  be  observed  that  in  the  course  of  the  day's  march, 
the  3rd  and  5th  Divisions  had  changed  places,  the  latter 
being  now  on  the  right  and  the  former  on  the  left  of  the 
II.  Corps.  This  manoeuvre  was  intentional  and  carried 
out  in  accordance  with  orders  issued  for  the  purpose.  The 

1  The  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  was  much  broken  up.  Headquarters,  with 
L  Battery,  £  squadron  of  4th  Dragoon  Guards,  l£  squadrons  of  9th  Lancers, 
and  one  squadron  of  18th  Hussars,  were  at  Ruesnes. 


whole  Army  was  inclining  westward,  in  order  to  clear  24  Aug. 
Maubeuge,  and  since  the  3rd  Division  was  able  to  begin  1914- 
its  retirement  considerably  before  the  5th,  it  could  without 
difficulty  proceed  to  the  westward  of  Bavai,  and  thus 
shorten  the  retreat  of  the  5th  Division  by  permitting  it  to 
fall  back  due  south  instead  of  south-west,  and  so  to  drop 
into  its  place  on  the  right  of  the  II.  Corps.  This  movement, 
not  only  eased  the  immediate  task  of  the  5th  Division,  but 
relieved  it  from  its  difficult  position  upon  the  threatened 
western  flank  ;  it  was  carried  out  without  any  collision,  in 
fact  without  the  divisions  seeing  each  other. 


The  German  accounts  of  the  24th  August  are  somewhat  Maps  3 
meagre ;  all  that  von  Kluck  has  to  say  about  the  day  is :  &  6* 
"  After  heavy  fighting,  the  leading  troops  reached  a  line 
"  (west  to  east)  Onain — Elouges — Dour — Genly — Harveng. 
"  The  British  force,  estimated  at  from  two  to  three  divisions, 
"  was  driven  back  towards  a  line  Curgies — Bavai." 

He  does  not  explain  why  his  attempt  at  envelopment 
failed,  why  such  a  very  short  advance — only  three  and  a 
half  miles  from  the  Canal — was  made,  or  why  his  corps 
halted  in  the  middle  of  the  afternoon.  His  staff  officer, 
von  Kuhl,1  states  frankly  "  the  enemy  put  up  a  lively  resist- 
ance with  rear  guards  so  that  we  only  advanced  slowly." 
Von  Kluck  adds :  "  After  the  severe  opposition  offered  by  the 
"  British  Army  in  the  two-days  battle  Mons — St.  Ghislain, 
"  a  further  and  even  stronger  defence  was  to  be  expected  on 
"  the  line  Valenciennes — Bavai — Maubeuge  "  and  he  then 
quotes  four  pages  from  Sir  John  French's  Despatch. 

The  German  General  Staff  monograph,  "  Mons  "  gives 
a  few  details — some  of  which  have  been  noticed  in  foot- 
notes— and  explains  the  absence  of  the  IX.  Corps  from 
the  fighting.  The  orders  for  its  advance  were  not  issued 
until  about  8  A.M.,  and  immediately  afterwards  "  an 
"  aviator  brought  news  from  which  it  appeared  that  the 
"  enemy  had  left  only  weak  infantry  and  artillery  on  the  line 
"  Ciply — Nouvelles — Givry,  that  numerous  small  columns 
"  were  in  retreat  to  the  south  and  south-west,  and  that  the 
"  enemy's  artillery  was  in  lively  action  with  our  own.  At 
"  9  A.M.  the  enemy's  fire  ceased,  and  the  advancing  infantry 
"  encountered  no  more  resistance,  as  the  enemy  had  appar- 
"  ently  marched  off  in  great  haste." 

1  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  72. 

108  MONS 

Nothing  therefore  could  have  been  more  successful  than 
the  withdrawal  of  the  I.  Corps  and  3rd  Division.  The 
heavy  losses  inflicted  on  the  Germans  on  the  23rd  had  not 
been  without  important  results. 

The  sketch  maps  in  the  monograph  show  that  in  the 
German  ///.  Corps  the  6th  Division  attacked  Frameries 
and  Paturages,  and  the  5th  Division  Hornu  and  Boussu. 
Towards  5  P.M.  this  corps  halted  for  the  night. 

In  the  IV.  Corps,  the  7th  Division  moved  through 
Thulin  towards  Elouges  and  the  8th,  swinging  west- 
wards, came  through  Quievrain  and  Quievrechain  towards 
Audregnies  and  Angre,  and  thus,  as  related,  struck  the  5th 
Division  flank  guard.  They  halted  in  the  afternoon  :  the 
7th  Division  near  Elouges  and  the  8th  at  Baisieux  and 
northwards.  No  details  of  the  fighting  are  given  in  the 
German  account,  but  it  is  mentioned  that  the  "  British 
resistance  was  quickly  broken."  This  statement  is  not 
borne  out  by  time  and  space  :  it  is  sufficient  commentary 
on  it  to  remark  that  through  a  long  summer's  day,  these 
two  divisions  made  an  average  advance  of  only  three  miles. 
Map  5.  On  the  24th  the  German  //.  Corps  only  reached  Conde  ; 
the  //.  Cavalry  Corps  during  the  same  day  was  moving 
southwards  through  Tournai,  so  that  fortunately  neither 
of  these  formations  came  in  contact  with  the  Allied  forces. 

Von  Kluck's  orders  for  the  25th,  issued  at  8  P.M.,  were  : 
"  Enemy's  main  position  is  believed  to  be  Bavai — Valen- 
"  ciennes.  The  First  Army  will  attack  it  with  envelopment 
"  of  the  left  flank,  //.  Cavalry  Corps  against  the  enemy's 
"  rear."  * 



(Authorities  :  Palat,  Hanotaux,  Dauzet,  Bujac,  etc.) 

Maps  2  G.Q.G.  instructions  to  General  d'Amade,  who  took  up  his  head- 
&  3-  quarters  at  Arras  on  18th  August  1914,  were  :  "  To  establish  a 
"  barrier  between  Dunkerque  and  Maubeuge,  in  order  to  protect  the 
"  railway  communications  from  possible  raids  by  enemy  cavalry." 
He  was  also  to  extend  the  inundations  of  the  Scarpe,  the  Escaut 
and  the  Rhonelle  by  opening  the  canal  sluices,  and  to  occupy  the 
old  forts  of  Maulde,  Flines,  Curgies,  Conde  and  Le  Quesnoy. 

In  accordance  with  these  instructions  General  d'Amade,  on  the 
20th  August,  disposed  his  three  Territorial  divisions  ("  de  campagne  " 

i  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  72. 


— i.e.  excluding  the  Territorial  divisions  "  de  place,"  such  as  the  18-24  Aug. 
34th  Territorial  Division  at  Lille)  as  follows  : —  1914.  ° 

81st  from  the  sea  to  the  Lys  ;  Map  5, 

82nd  from  the  Lys  to  the  Scarpe  ; 
84th  from  the  Scarpe  to  the  Sam  ore. 

The  main  line  of  defence  for  the  84th  was  :    northern  edge  of  Bois  Map  3. 
1'Eveque  (north-east  of  Le  Cateau) — Solesmes — Villers  en  Cauchies 
—  Estrun  —  Sensee  Canal;    its  advanced   line   being  Maubeuge  — 
Mecquignies  —  Wargnies  —  Valenciennes  —  junction   of  Escaut  and 

On  the  22nd,  on  the  advance  of  the  British  Army  west  of  Mau- 
beuge, the  84th  Division  closed  in  on  its  left  about  Valenciennes, 
clearing  the  British  front,  and  advanced  to  Conde.  It  then  formed 
along  the  Schelde  from  Conde  north-westwards  to  Maulde. 

On  the  night  of  the  22nd/23rd  the  88th  Territorial  Division  left 
Choisy  le  Roi,  near  Paris,  in  twenty-two  trains,  and  detrained  on 
the  morning  of  the  23rd  at  Seclin  and  Templeuve,  near  Lille. 
It  was  then  ordered  to  march  at  once  towards  Cysoing  (8  miles  Map  2. 
south-east  of  Lille)  and  then  to  retake  Tournai,  which  some  German 
cavalry  had  entered  on  the  22nd.1  The  main  body  of  the  division 
reached  Cysoing  early  on  the  24th,  and  at  9  A.M.  was  suddenly 
subjected  to  a  heavy  artillery  fire  from  about  Tournai.  As  the 
division  had  no  artillery  with  it,  it  eventually  retired  towards 
Templeuve  and  Arras,  after  delaying  the  enemy  some  hours. 

After  the  German  attack  at  Mons  on  the  23rd,  General  d'Amade  Map  3. 
reconstructed  his  line.  At  2  A.M.  (24th)  the  84th  Division 
retired  from  Conde  through  Valenciennes  towards  Cambrai  and 
Marquion.  During  the  morning  of  the  24th,  the  rear  guard  of  the 
division  in  position  near  Fresnes  (two  miles  south  of  Conde)  was 
attacked  and  badly  shaken.  On  the  25th,  as  will  be  seen,  the 
division,  still  on  the  left  of  the  British,  was  attacked  when  near 
Haspres  and  became  disorganized. 

Lille  was  evacuated  on  the  24th  by  order  of  the  Ministry  of  Map  2. 
War,2  and  the  82nd  Division  took  up  the  line  La  Bassee — Corbehem. 
The  81st  Division  conformed  to  this  and  was  allocated   the   area 
between  Aire  and   the  sea.      Thus,  a  barrier   between  the  British 
left  and  the  sea  was  still  maintained. 

1  This  cavalry  patrol  left  again  within  a  few  hours. 
2  For  an  account  of  this  incident  see  General  Percin's  "  Lille." 


DAWN   TILL   DUSK,  25TH   AUGUST    1914 

(See  Sketch  3  ;   Maps  2,  3,  9,  10  &  13) 

Sketch  3.  AFTER  a  visit  to  the  I.  Corps  and  to  General  Sordet  at 
Maps.  Avesnes,  Sir  John  French,  on  his  return  to  G.H.Q.  at 
Bavai  in  the  afternoon  of  the  24th  August,  received 
information  of  the  retreat  of  the  French  Third  and  Fourth 
Armies  and  the  continuation  of  the  retirement  of  the 
Fifth.  The  XVIII.  Corps  of  the  Fifth  Army,  immediately 
to  the  right  of  the  British,  had  been  attacked  early,  and 
had  fallen  back  in  good  order  to  a  line  from  Solre  le  Chateau 
(about  ten  miles  south-east  of  Maubeuge)  south-eastward 
to  Clairfayte.  Valabregue's  Group  of  two  Reserve  divi- 
sions had  also  fallen  back  south  of  Maubeuge.1 

As  to  the  western  flank,  the  Field-Marshal  had  been 
informed  that  two  French  Reserve  divisions,  the  61st 
and  62nd  (General  Ebener's  Group),  had  been  sent  from 
Paris  to  Arras  to  reinforce  General  d'Amade,  who  would 
thus  have  six  divisions — some  80,000  men,  without  counting 
the  garrison  of  Lille,  25,000 — to  hold  a  line,  some  70  miles 
long,  through  Douai,  Bethune  and  Aire  to  the  sea.  What 
enemy  forces  were  before  d'Amade  was  still  unknown  ; 
but  German  troops — presumably  part  of  the  IV.  Corps— 
had  been  actually  seen  marching  south  between  Valen- 
Map  2.  ciennes  and  Bavai ;  and  the  Flying  Corps  in  the  evening 
reported  that  a  large  column  of  two  divisions,  in  all  prob- 
ability the  German  II.  Corps,  moving  west  from  Ath 
and  Grammont,  had  wheeled  southward  at  10  A.M.  at 
Lahamaide  (5  miles  north-west  of  Ath)  and  Ladeuze 

1  For  the  movements  of  this  group,  the  nearest  French  troops  on  the 
right  of  the  B.E.F.,  see  Note  at  end  of  the  chapter,  p.  122. 



(4  miles  south  of  Ath) ;  also  that  at  4.40  P.M.  one  of  25  Aug. 
these  divisions  had  halted  at  Ligne  (3  miles  west  of  Ath)  1914- 
to  allow  the  other  to  pass  it;  and  cavalry  was  known 
to  be  as  far  west  as  Tournai.  The  British  Staff  was 
informed  that  Cambrai  had  been  entrenched,  and  would 
be  held  by  the  French,  while  to  the  west  of  Cambrai  the 
strong  line  of  the  Sensee  would  be  occupied.  From  the 
small  numbers  available  and  the  nature  of  the  troops,  it 
could  not  be  hoped  that  they  would  keep  off  for  very 
long  any  serious  German  pressure  upon  the  British  western 

The  British  Commander  -  in  -  Chief  judged  from  the 
method  and  direction  of  the  German  attacks  on  the  24th 
that  von  Kluck  was  endeavouring  not  only  to  turn  the 
left  flank  of  the  British  force,  but  to  press  it  back  on  to 
the  old  fortress  of  Maubeuge,1  which  lay  to  its  right  rear, 
offering  asylum  just  as  Metz  had  presented  its  shelter  to 
the  French  in  1870  during  the  battle  of  Gravelotte.  He 
was  not,  however,  inclined  to  be  thus  tempted,  and,  as  the 
left  of  the  French  XVIII.  Corps  was  already  ten  miles 
in  rear  of  the  British  right,  decided  to  continue  the  retreat 
on  the  25th  some  fifteen  miles  further,  to  a  position  in  the 
neighbourhood  of  Le  Cateau. 

The  routes  for  this  retirement  of  the  British  Force  Map  3. 
presented  some  difficulty.  Bavai  is  the  crossing  place  of 
two  ancient  highways,  the  Chausee  Brunehaut,  running 
from  •  south-east  to  north-west,  and  another,  known  as 
the  Roman  Road,  running  from  south-west  to  north-east ; 
in  the  southern  angle  enclosed  between  them  lies  the  Forest 
of  Mormal.  This  was  then  a  compact  and  well-cared- 
for  block  of  woodland,  mostly  oak  and  beech,  with  an 
extreme  length  of  nine  miles  and  an  average  breadth  of 
from  three  to  four.  On  its  western  side  the  Roman  Road 
forms  its  boundary  for  some  seven  miles  ;  from  east  to 
west  several  fair  roads,  one  main  road  and  a  railway  cross 
it ;  and,  in  addition,  the  Bavai — Pont  sur  Sambre  and 
the  Englefontaine — Landrecies  roads  run  respectively 
just  north  and  south  of  it ;  but  there  is  no  road  through 
it  from  north  to  south :  the  numerous  forest  tracks  shown  Map  10. 
on  the  map  were  narrow  and  unmetalled,  or  at  best 
had  only  a  thin  layer  of  unrolled  stones.  With  the 
uncorrected  maps  then  at  the  disposal  of  the  British  Force, 

1  This  was  actually  the  case.  Von  Kluck's  orders  for  the  24th  ran — 
"  The  attack  is  to  be  so  carried  out  that  the  enemy  will  be  thrown  back  on 
"  Maubeuge  and  his  retreat  to  the  west  cut  off "  (Kluck,  p.  45). 


a  commander  might  well  hesitate  before  involving  his 
columns,  with  an  enemy  on  their  heels,  in  so  large  and 
blind  a  mass  of  trees.1  Just  east  of  the  Forest  runs  the 
Sambre,  with  many  loops  and  windings,  with  a  general 
course  south-west  to  north-east,  but  without,  as  might 
have  been  expected,  a  main  road  following  the  line  of  its 
valley  :  the  Maubeuge  —  Leval  —  Landrecies  road,  the 
nearest  to  the  river,  was  from  half  to  two  miles  east  of  it. 
Consequently,  if  the  river  were  crossed  (as  circumstances 
dictated  that  it  must  be  crossed  by  the  I.  Corps  as  close 
to  Maubeuge  as  possible),  it  must  be  recrossed  before  that 
corps  could  be  re-united  with  the  II. 

The  situation  presented  to  the  British  Commander-in- 
Chief  was,  through  the  mere  accident  of  topography,  most 
embarrassing.  To  pass  the  whole  of  his  Army  to  the 
west  of  the  Forest  would  mean,  practically,  a  flank  march 
across  the  front  of  an  enemy  greatly  superior  in  numbers 
and  already  threatening  his  western  flank ;  to  pass  entirely 
to  the  east  of  it  was  impossible  owing  to  the  proximity  of 
the  French.  Sir  Douglas  Haig  was  communicated  with 
on  the  subject  of  avoiding  the  Forest,  and  at  5.45  P.M. 
on  the  24th  he  wrote  to  the  Commander-in  Chief  that  he 
would  be  able  to  march  at  5  A.M.  on  the  25th  along  the 
roads  near  the  Sambre,  and  therefore  could  leave  the 
Roman  Road  to  the  II.  Corps.  He  added  that  his  march 
would  bring  the  head  of  his  corps  as  far  as  Landrecies. 

The  Commander-in-Chief  decided  therefore  to  divide 
the  British  Force,  and  send  the  I.  Corps  east  and  the 
II.  Corps  west  of  the  Forest,  and  at  8.25  P.M.  issued  orders 
for  the  retirement,  with  a  notification  that  the  exact 
Maps  3  positions  to  be  occupied  at  Le  Cateau  would  be  pointed 
&  13.  out  on  the  ground.2  The  movement  was  to  be  com- 
menced so  that  all  rear  guards  would  be  clear  of  the  Bavai 
— Eth  road  by  5.30  A.M.  on  the  25th.  In  the  G.H.Q. 
operation  orders  the  Roman  Road,  Bavai — Montay  (just 
north-west  of  Le  Cateau)  was  made  the  boundary  between 
the  I.  and  II.  Corps  and  assigned  to  the  II.  Corps  ;  so 
that  the  I.  Corps  was  responsible  for  the  Forest  of  Mormal. 

1  The  leading  German  corps  avoided  crossing  the  Forest  from  north  to 
south.  The  III.  Corps  sent  advanced  guards  by  two  of  the  transverse 
roads  from  west  to  east  to  secure  the  eastern  edge  ;  and  the  IV.  Corps 
also  sent  a  column  from  west  to  east  by  the  road  south  of  the  Forest  to 
Landrecies,  as  will  be  seen.  The  IX.  Corps  crossed  it  with  infinite  pre- 
cautions by  the  main  road  from  Berlaimont  from  east  to  west,  two  days 
after  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau.  The  next  corps  to  the  east,  the  X.  Reserve 
(at  Etreux  on  the  27th),  with  Richthofen's  Cavalry  Corps,  moved  well  to  the 
east  of  the  Forest.  2  Appendix  13. 


The  various  orders  for  moving  the  Force  south-west-  25  Aug. 
wards  may  be  summarized  as  follows  :  1914. 

I.  Corps  :  to  move  in  two  columns,  and  billet  in  villages  on  the 

1st  Division  :  to  cross  the  Sambre  at  Hautmont  and  proceed 

thence    southward    by    Limont    Fontaine,    Ecuelin    and 

Monceau  to  Dompierre  and  villages  beyond. 
2nd  Division  :   to  cross  the  Sambre  at  Pont  sur  Sambre  and 

Berlaimont,  and  billet  in  the  area  from  Leval  south-west 

to  Landrecies. 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  (attached  I.  Corps) :  to  cover  the  above 

movements,  follow  the  march  of  the  2nd  Division   and 

billet  in  the  area  from  Leval  northward  to  Bachant. 

II.  Corps  :  to  fall  back  west  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal  to  the  line 

Le  Cateau — Caudry — Haucourt,  by  three  roads.     Further 

details  are  given  below. 
Cavalry  Division  (with  19th  Infantry  Brigade  attached) : 

Two  brigades,  with  II.  Corps  Cavalry  attached,  under  a 
special  commander,  to  cover  the  retreat  of  the  II.  Corps ; 
two  brigades,  with  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade,  under 
G.O.C.  Cavalry  Division,  to  guard  the  western  flank. 

In  the  course  of  the  22nd/23rd  the  4th  Division,  having 
been  relieved  of  its  duties  on  the  east  coast  of  Great 
Britain  by  Yeomanry  Mounted  Brigades,  Territorial 
cyclists  and  other  units,  had  crossed  the  Channel  to  the 
ports  of  Havre,  Rouen  and  Boulogne,  and  by  the  24th 
eleven  battalions  of  infantry  and  one  brigade  of  artillery, 
the  bulk  of  the  combatants,  had  arrived  by  train  at  Le 
Cateau  and  the  neighbouring  stations.  They  were  ordered 
to  move  forward  and  occupy  a  position  at  Solesmes  to 
assist  the  retirement  of  the  II.  Corps.  Major  -  General 
Snow  subsequently  received  orders  to  withdraw  when  the 
time  came  to  the  left  of  the  II.  Corps  on  the  Le  Cateau 


In  the  right  centre  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade,  in  the  Maps  3 
early  hours  of  the  25th,  took  over  the  outposts  of  the  &  !3. 
2nd  Division  from  La  Longueville  to  Bavai,  which  had 
been  attacked,  though  not  in  force.     A  troop  was  sent 
out  eastwards  to  gain  touch  with  the  outposts  of  the  1st 
Division,  and  it  ascertained  that  the  French  53rd  Reserve 

VOL.  I  I 


Division  was  retiring  upon  Hatitmont,  the  very  place 
selected  for  the  1st  Division  to  cross  the  Sambre.  From 
Feignies  to  Hautmont  the  1st  Division  was  confined  to  a 
single,  narrow,  high-banked,  dusty  road,  and  when  the 
river  had  been  passed  at  the  allotted  bridge  the  French 
53rd  Reserve  Division  shared  with  it  the  road  from  Haut- 
mont to  Dompierre  and  Marbaix.1  The  weather  was 
extremely  hot,  and  the  march,  broken  as  it  was  by  constant 
checks  owing  to  the  number  of  troops  on  the  road,  was 
greatly  distressing  to  soldiers  already  much  worn  by  fatigue 
and  want  of  sleep.  Otherwise  the  column  was  little  dis- 
turbed, except  by  occasional  bullets  from  German  patrols, 
Map  9.  and  the  division  reached  its  billets,  in  a  line  of  villages 
west  of  Avesnes  : — the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade  at  Dompierre, 
the  2nd  at  Marbaix,  which  was  shared  with  the  French 
53rd  Reserve  Division,  and  the  3rd  at  Le  Grand  Fayt. 

The  2nd  Division,  moving  to  Noyelles  —  Maroilles— 
Landrecies,  south  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal,  on  the  west  of 
the  1st,  had  a  better  road  from  La  Longueville  to  its  bridges 
at  Berlaimont  and  Pont  sur  Sambre ;  the  rear  guard, 
supplied  by  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade,  was  only  followed 
by  dismounted  cavalry  and  was  little  pressed.  But  it  too 
had  trouble,  for  Maroilles  was  the  supply  re-filling  point 
of  the  French  53rd  and  69th  Reserve  Divisions ;  and 
no  one  could  tell  the  British  Staff  which  roads  the 
supply  columns  would  use  after  re-filling.  Moreover,  the 
tail  of  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  was  using  the  road 
from  Maroilles  to  Landrecies  on  its  way  to  Le  Cateau, 
and  this  meant  further  congestion.  However,  the  4th 
(Guards)  Brigade  duly  reached  Landrecies  about  4  P.M.  ; 
and  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade  reached  Maroilles  about 
6  P.M.  ;  the  5th  was  detained  till  evening  to  guard  the 

?assages  of  the  Sambre  from  Pont  sur  Sambre  to  Sassegnies 
west  of  Leval)  until  it  could  be  relieved  by  French  troops, 
and  did  not  reach  Noyelles  till  midnight. 

Sir  Douglas  Haig  soon  after  2  P.M.  had  established  his 
headquarters  at  Landrecies  ;    here  a  message  despatched 

1  General  Palat,  in  an  article  entitled  "  Le  Mar6chal  French  et  le 
General  Lanrezac "  in  the  "  Anglo-French  Review,"  November  1919, 
stated  that  the  mistake  was  the  I.  Corps'  and  that  it  got  on  the  roads 
assigned  to  the  Reserve  division  ;  but  no  allotment  of  roads  as  between 
the  British  and  the  French  can  be  traced  before  a  memorandum  dated  10  A.M. 
on  the  26th.  Similar  mishaps  as  regards  allotment  of  roads  between 
Armies  occurred  on  the  German  side,  according  to  General  Baumgarten- 
Crusius  in  his  "  Marneschlacht,"  due  to  there  being  no  intermediate 
commander  between  Supreme  Headquarters  and  the  Armies,  as  there  was 
later  on  in  the  war. 

THE  II.  CORPS  115 

from  G.H.Q.  soon  after  3  P.M.  reached  him  informing  him  25  Aug. 
that  the  II.  Corps  was  occupying  the  Le  Cateau  posi- 
tion  from  Caudry  to  Inchy,  including,  temporarily,  the 
I.  Corps'  part  of  Inchy,  and  asked  him  when  he  would 
be  able  to  take  up  the  line  from  Inchy  south-eastward  to 
St.  Benin  (If  miles  south  of  Le  Cateau).  His  answer  was 
urgently  requested,  since  the  orders  for  the  26th  depended 
upon  it. 

General  Haig  realized  that  the  situation  was  serious, 
for,  about  noon,  the  Flying  Corps  had  reported  German 
columns  to  be  closing  on  Bavai.  Meantime,  his  chief 
General  Staff  officer,  Brigadier-General  J.  E.  Gough,  had 
gone  to  G.H.Q.  and  returned  with  instructions,  in  accord- 
ance with  which  he  ordered  the  march  of  the  I.  Corps 
to  be  resumed  at  2  A.M.  on  the  26th  :  that  of  the  1st 
Division  to  St.  Martin  (5  miles  south  of  Le  Cateau), 
the  2nd  to  Bazuel  (2  miles  south-east  of  Le  Cateau), 
the  whole  movement  to  be  covered  by  the  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade.  Orders,  issued  at  7.30  P.M.  by  G.H.Q.,  were, 
however,  received  subsequently,  and  they  directed  that 
the  retirement  was  to  be  continued  a  little  further  and 
that  the  I.  Corps  was  to  go  on  to  Bussigny  (7  miles 
south-west  of  Le  Cateau).1  The  reason  of  the  change  was 
that  in  view  of  the  reports  received  of  the  further  retire- 
ment of  the  French  on  his  right  and  of  the  strength  of 
the  enemy  on  his  own  immediate  front,  Sir  John  French 
had  decided  that  he  could  not  stand  on  the  Le  Cateau 
position,  but  must  continue  the  retreat  on  St.  Quentin 
and  Noyon. 


The  II.  Corps  had  made  every  preparation  for  a  very  Maps  3 
early  start  on  the  25th  in  its  retirement  south-west  from  &  13- 
Bavai  to  the  Le  Cateau  position  ;  but  owing  to  the  passage 
of  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  from  east  to  west 
across  its  line  of  retreat,  the  roads  to  the  south  were 
blocked,  and  there  was  much  difficulty  in  getting  the 
whole  of  the  transport  into  motion  by  midnight,  the 
hour  fixed  in  orders.  The  process  was  not,  in  fact,  ac- 
complished without  the  delay  of  a  full  hour,  with  the 
result  that  the  fighting  troops  were  also  that  much  behind 
their  time.  The  5th  Division  was  allotted  the  Roman 
Road,  immediately  west  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal ;  the 

1  Appendix  14. 


14th  Infantry  Brigade  formed  its  rear  guard.  The  3rd 
Division  was  to  march  on  the  west  of  the  5th  Division 
on  two  roads  as  follows  : 

9th  Infantry  Brigade  via  Gommegnies  (three  miles  north- 
east of  Le  Quesnoy) — Salesches — Vendegies  au  Bois  ; 

8th  Infantry  Brigade  via  Wargnies  le  Petit — Le  Quesnoy 
— Salesches — Viesly  ;  followed  by  the 

7th  Infantry  Brigade  as  rear  guard. 

The  19th  Infantry  Brigade  and  the  Cavalry  Division  were 
to  move  still  further  west  by  Villers  Pol,  Ruesnes,  Vertain, 
Romeries  and  Solesmes,  thus  passing  a  couple  of  miles 
west  of  Le  Quesnoy ;  their  function  was  to  cover  the 
rear  and  protect  the  western  flank  of  the  II.  Corps. 

It  will  be  remembered  that  the  4th  Division  had  been 
ordered  to  occupy  a  position  in  the  vicinity  of  Solesmes  to 
assist  the  retirement  of  the  II.  Corps,  though  not  actually 
under  its  orders.  The  division  accordingly  marched 
northward  from  its  detraining  stations  at  1  A.M.  to  carry 
out  the  role  assigned  to  it. 

The  main  body  of  the  5th  Division  moved  off  at  3  A.M., 
but  the  rear  guard  was  obliged  to  push  some  way  north- 
ward towards  Bellignies  (3  miles  north-west  of  Bavai), 
to  cover  the  withdrawal  of  its  guns  from  St.  Waast  through 
Bavai:  a  flank  march,  though  short,  across  the  enemy's 
front,  which  the  nature  of  the  country  made  inevitable. 
There  was  a  brush  with  German  troops  about  Breaugies 
(just  south  of  Bellignies)  and  a  second  encounter  near 
Bavai,  where  the  guns  of  the  XV.  Brigade  R.F.A.  came 
into  action  with  good  effect.  By  6.30  A.M. — just  one  hour 
late — the  bulk  of  the  rear  guard  had  crossed  the  road 
Bavai — Eth,  when,  dropping  into  the  Roman  Road,  it 
was  no  further  troubled  ;  the  Germans  followed  it  up 
at  no  great  distance,  but  never  pressed  the  pursuit. 

Further  to  the  west,  the  main  body  of  the  3rd  Division 
moved  off  at  5  A.M.,  the  rear  guard  taking  up  a  line  from 
the  Roman  Road  westward  through  Bermeries  to  Wargnies 
le  Petit,  where  its  left  was  in  touch  with  General  Allenby's 
command.  The  ground  on  the  west  flank  of  the  British, 
over  which  the  Cavalry  Division  was  working,  is  cut  into 
a  series  of  ridges  by  four  streams,  which  flow  in  a  north- 
westerly direction  into  the  Upper  Schelde  between  Bouchain 
and  Cambrai.  Across  this  ground  from  north-east  to 
south-west  runs  the  straight  line  of  the  Bavai — Cambrai 
road,  and  from  north  to  south  the  Valenciennes — Solesmes 


— Le  Cateau  road.     The  1st  and  2nd  Cavalry  Brigades  25  Aug. 
were  extended  from  Wargnies  beyond  Jenlain,  with  the   1914- 
3rd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  to  their  left  rear  between 
Maresches  and  Preseau,  all  on  the  first  ridge  ;    and  the 
19th  Infantry  Brigade,  again  to  the  left  rear,  on  the  next 
ridge  between  Sepmeries  and  Querenaing. 

The  operations  which  now  ensued  on  the  west  flank 
may  be  summarized  as  a  running  fight  during  which  the 
Germans  closed  in,  following  the  II.  Corps  and  Cavalry 
Division,  so  that  at  night  their  advanced  troops  were 
practically  in  contact  with  the  British. 

The  7th  Infantry  Brigade,  the  rear  guard  of  the  3rd 
Division,  began  its  retirement  upon  Le  Quesnoy  without 
seeing  any  sign  of  the  enemy  ;  and  a  reconnaissance  pushed 
north-west  to  Famars,  on  the  outskirts  of  Valenciennes, 
could  also  find  nothing  of  him.  On  the  other  hand,  bodies 
of  French  Territorial  troops,  belonging  to  General  d' Amade's 
84th  Territorial  Division,  originally  at  Conde,  were  met 
retreating  southward  from  Valenciennes,  which  indicated 
the  evacuation  of  that  town,  and  the  prospect  of  increasing 
pressure  from  the  enemy  on  the  west.  Reports  from  the 
Flying  Corps  pointed  to  the  same  conclusion  :  the  head 
of  a  very  large  column — apparently  a  corps  (the  IV.) — 
had  been  seen  at  Quievrechain  (5  miles  north-east  of 
Valenciennes)  at  7.30  A.M.  Another  column  of  cavalry 
and  guns,  three  miles  in  length  (evidently  two  regiments, 
part  of  the  //.  Corps),  was  moving  south  from  Somain 
(12  miles  west  of  Valenciennes),  and  its  head  had  reached 
Bouchain  (11  miles  south-west  of  Valenciennes)  at  6  A.M. 
Lastly,  between  9  and  10  A.M.  Divisional  Cavalry  reported 
that  parties  of  the  enemy,  presumably  cavalry,  were  on 
the  road  between  Haspres  and  Saulzoir  (9  miles  south 
by  west  of  Valenciennes),  and  that  they  had  passed  along 
the  main  road  from  Valenciennes  to  Cambrai  and  struck 
south  from  the  neighbourhood  of  Denain.  It  appears 
that  the  British  cavalry  was  barely  in  contact  with  the 
enemy  at  the  outset ;  but  the  menace  to  the  western 
flank  of  the  force  and  to  the  retreating  French  Terri- 
torials caused  the  3rd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  to  be 
sent  westwards  to  Querenaing  and  beyond  it  to  Verchain, 
thus  covering  the  second  ridge  already  referred  to.  The 
1st  Cavalry  Brigade  also  moved  north  of  them  in  the  same 
direction,  through  Artres  (4  miles  south  of  Valenciennes) 
where  it  was  heavily,  though  ineffectively,  shelled. 

At  the  same  time,  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade  was  moved 


by  General  Allenby  south-west  over  the  third  ridge  to 
Haussy  in  the  valley  south  of  it.  At  Querenaing  French 
gendarmes  reported  the  information  that  large  German 
forces  were  moving  south-east  from  Bouchain,  and  this 
news  was  confirmed  by  the  sound  of  heavy  firing  about 
Avesnes  le  Sec  (south-west  of  the  last-named  village),  and 
only  four  miles  from  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade.  The 
16th  Lancers  were  therefore  sent,  about  noon,  to  Haspres 
and  Saulzoir  to  help  the  French  Territorials  ;  but  from 
Saulzoir  they  were  driven  back  by  artillery  fire  and  with- 
drew south-eastwards  to  rejoin  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade. 
Meanwhile,  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  left  alone  in  the  north, 
had  fallen  back  southward,  not  very  hard  pressed,  first  to 
a  line  between  Villers  Pol  and  Le  Quesnoy,  and  then,  in 
succession,  to  Ruesnes,  Capelle  sur  Ecaillon  and  Vertain, 
east  of  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade. 

The  4th  Division  had  been  in  position  since  5  A.M. 
immediately  to  the  south  of  Solesmes  :  the  llth  Infantry 
Brigade  on  the  right,  on  the  spur  to  the  south-east  of  the 
town ;  the  10th  Infantry  Brigade  on  the  left,  near  the 
farm  of  Fontaine  au  Tertre  (two  miles  south-west  of 
Solesmes) ;  and  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade,  in  reserve,  in 
rear  at  Viesly.  It  was  of  the  utmost  importance  that 
Solesmes  should  be  strongly  held,  for  upon  it  the  principal 
highways  from  the  north-east,  north  and  north-west,  all 
converged ;  and,  soon  after  noon,  a  huge  mass  of  British 
transport  was  struggling  to  pass  through  it  by  roads 
which  were  already  seriously  congested  by  a  crowd  of 
refugees.  These,  with  every  kind  of  vehicle  from  six- 
horse  farm  wagons  to  perambulators,  everywhere  delayed 
the  marching  troops,  and  made  it  impossible  for  motor 
cars  carrying  Staff  officers  to  pass  the  columns. 

The  further  operations  of  the  cavalry  had  all  the  char- 
acteristics of  a  prolonged  rear-guard  action.1  Eventually 

1  General  Allenby's  opponents  on  this  day,  von  der  Marwitz's  Cavalry 
Corps,  spent  the  night  of  the  24th/25th  : — 2nd  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions 
at  Marchiennes  (16  miles  north  of  Cambrai  and  about  the  same  distance 
from  the  British  flank),  and  the  4th  Cavalry  Division  at  Orchies  (4  miles 
north  of  Marchiennes).  The  corps  orders  for  the  25th  were  for  "  an 
overtaking  pursuit,"  and  the  divisions  were  given  as  their  respective 
objectives  the  three  towns  lying  to  the  south-west,  one  behind  the  other  : 
Le  Cateau,  Solesmes  and  Haspres.  This  line  of  march  brought  them  in 
on  the  flank  of  the  British,  but  too  late  to  be  effective.  It  is  claimed 
that  charges  were  made  against  the  French  Territorials  ;  but,  except 
for  "  a  street  fight  "  in  Haspres,  about  3  P.M.,  "  after  which  the  9th  Cavalry 
Division  spent  the  night  there,"  the  11.  Cavalry  Corps,  according  to 
the  German  records,  employed  only  artillery  fire  against  the  British 
("  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  pp.  51-55). 


the  1st,  3rd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  under  increasing  25  Aug. 
shell  fire  from  the  enemy,  fell  back  along  the  third  of  1014- 
the  ridges  between  the  Selle  and  the  Harpies.  The 
French  84th  Territorial  Division  was  found  retreating 
southward  across  this  ridge,  and  liaison  was  arranged  with 
it ;  but  the  pressure  upon  the  British  cavalry  seemed  at 
one  time  so  heavy  that  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade  was 
brought  up  on  to  the  ridge  from  Haussy  and  deployed,  in 
order  to  relieve  it.  The  Germans,  however,  were  held 
back  with  no  great  difficulty ;  and  the  19th  Infantry 
Brigade,  between  2  and  3  P.M.,  resumed  its  way  south- 
ward to  Solesmes,  while  the  bulk  of  the  cavalry  and  horse 
artillery,  having  for  the  time-being  shaken  off  the  enemy, 
was  collected  and  massed  to  the  east  of  Vertain  (3 
miles  north-east  of  Solesmes).  Here,  between  3  and  4 
P.M.,  they  were  suddenly  assailed  by  a  storm  of  German 
shells  from  the  north-east  as  well  as  from  the  north ;  and 
the  division,  being  cramped  for  space,  moved  across 
country  by  brigades  and  still  smaller  bodies,  after  detailing 
rear  guards  to  cover  the  passage  of  the  infantry  through 
Vertain  and  Solesmes.  The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  drew  off 
south-east,  leaving  behind  the  greater  part  of  the  4th 
Hussars,  with  instructions  to  gain  touch  with  the  I.  Corps  ; 
part  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  including  its  head- 
quarters, took  the  same  route  ;  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade 
fell  back  to  the  high  ground  immediately  south-east  of 
Solesmes,  and  the  4th,  with  other  portions  of  the  Cavalry 
Division,  remained  in  the  vicinity  of  that  town. 

Meanwhile,  the  rear  guard  of  the  3rd  Division  (7th 
Infantry  Brigade)  was  gradually  coming  in  from  Le 
Quesnoy  to  Solesmes,  and  by  5.45  P.M.  its  head  had 
reached  the  point  where  the  roads  from  Romeries,  Vertain 
and  Vendegies  meet  immediately  to  the  north  of  Solesmes. 
There  the  I/Wiltshire  and  2/South  Lancashire  halted  and 
deployed,  whilst  the  3/Worcestershire  occupied  a  covering 
position  to  the  south  of  Solesmes  between  the  10th  and 
llth  Infantry  Brigades.  The  2/Irish  Rifles  and  a  section 
of  the  41st  Battery,  the  rear  party  of  the  rear  guard, 
having  been  warned  of  strong  German  forces  moving 
on  Le  Quesnoy,  were  following  the  rest  of  the  7th 
Infantry  Brigade  slowly  and  with  every  precaution,  and 
at  this  time  were  at  Pont  a  Pierres,  on  the  main  road,  a 
couple  of  miles  to  the  north-east  of  Romeries.  The  19th 
Infantry  Brigade  about  the  same  time  was  passing  west  of 
Solesmes,  through  St.  Python,  and  began  to  make  its  way 


up  the  Selle  Valley  by  Briastre  and  Neuvilly  towards  Le 
Cateau.  The  4th  Cavalry  Brigade,  together  with  the 
detachments  of  other  mounted  troops  near  Solesmes  that 
had  joined  it,  fell  back  by  St.  Python  south-west  upon 
Viesly,  soon  after  the  Wiltshire  and  South  Lancashire  (7th 
Infantry  Brigade)  had  been  deployed.  By  6  P.M.,  or  soon 
after,  these  two  battalions  were  the  only  troops  north  of 
Solesmes,  whilst  the  4th  Division  still  held  its  original 
position  on  the  high  ground  to  the  south  of  that  town, 
with  orders  from  G.H.Q.  to  cover  the  retirement  of  the 
Map  9.  3rd  Division,  Cavalry  Division  and  19th  Infantry  Brigade. 

The  stifling  heat  of  the  day  had  about  5  P.M.  given 
place  to  a  thunderstorm  ;  the  light  began  to  fail  very 
early  and  the  rain  streamed  down  in  torrents.  Through 
this  downpour,  between  6  and  7  P.M.,  the  remainder  of 
the  3rd  Division,  drenched  to  the  skin,  hungry  and  weary, 
marched  into  their  billets  on  the  Le  Cateau  position:  the 
8th  Infantry  Brigade  to  Audencourt  and  the  9th  to  Inchy. 

The  main  body  of  the  5th  Division  came  in  earlier, 
between  3  and  5  P.M.,  on  the  right  of  the  3rd  :  the  13th 
Infantry  Brigade  between  Le  Cateau  and  Troisvilles,  and 
the  15th  to  Troisvilles,  west  of  it.  The  march  along  the 
Roman  Road  had  been  most  trying,  for  the  sun  beat 
fiercely  upon  the  interminable  length  of  the  straight, 
white,  dusty  road,  and  under  the  tall  trees  of  the  Forest 
of  Mormal  there  was  not  a  breath  of  air  to  relieve  the 
stifling  heat.  The  13th  Infantry  Brigade  was  delayed  for 
some  time  just  outside  Le  Cateau  to  allow  six  regiments 
and  a  cyclist  battalion  of  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps 
to  pass  over  the  railway  bridge  on  their  way  westward. 
As  soon  as  the  rear  guard,  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade, 
which  had  been  little  troubled,  came  in  between  5.30  and 
6.30  P.M.,  the  Cornwall  Light  Infantry  and  half  of  the  East 
Surreys 1  were  sent  to  the  east  of  Le  Cateau  to  establish 
connection  with  the  I.  Corps,  while  the  Suffolks  and  the 
Manchesters  were  diverted  a  little  westward  to  the  other 
side  of  the  Selle  valley  astride  the  Roman  Road  just  north 
of  Montay.  Here,  with  two  batteries  of  the  XXVIII. 
Brigade  R.F.A.,  they  entrenched  in  order  to  keep  the 
Germans  at  a  distance  upon  that  side. 

As  darkness  began  to  close  in,  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade, 

1  The  two  remaining  companies  under  Major  Tew  had  been  mis- 
directed on  the  evening  of  the  24th,  and  had  spent  the  night  at  Eth,  from 
which  place  they  marched  by  Ruesnes,  Vertain  and  Solesmes  to  Viesly, 
where  they  arrived  between  5  and  6  P.M. 


the  4th  Division,  and  half  of  the  Cavalry  Division  were  25  Aug. 
still  engaged,  or  in  position  to  engage,  with  the  enemy  near  1914- 
Solesmes  ;  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade  and  the  remainder 
of  the  Cavalry  Division  were  still  far  from  their  halting 
places  for  the  night ;  the  5th  Division  and  part  of  the 
3rd  Division  had,  however,  reached  their  destinations  on 
the  Le  Cateau  position.  From  front  and  left  flank,  the 
Germans  appeared  to  be  closing  in,  but  at  a  respectful 
distance  without  affording  the  British  the  satisfaction  of 
seeing  the  results  of  their  good  shooting.  It  would  indeed 
have  alleviated  the  fatigue  of  the  men,  tired  out  as  they 
were  with  deployments  upon  rear-guard  positions  which 
were  never  attacked,  had  they  had  more  fighting ;  but  the 
Germans  never  really  came  within  rifle  shot  and  rarely 
gave  even  the  guns  a  target. 


Until  the  27th  August  inclusive,  the  German  First  and  Map  3. 
Second  Armies  were  both  under  the  orders  of  von  Billow, 
the  commander  of  the  Second  Army,  and  they  appear  to 
have  had  no  other  directions  from  Supreme  Headquarters 
than  those  issued  on  the  18th  August : 

"  The  First  and  Second  Armies,  combined  under  the 
"  command  of  Generaloberst  von  Biilow,  will  have  their 
"  advanced  guards  across  the  Brussels — Namur  railway  by 
"  the  20th  August,  when  they  will  wheel  southwards  " 
that  is  they  were  to  continue  the  great  wheel  pivoting  on 
Thionville  laid  down  in  the  initial  directions.1 

On  the  23rd  August,  after  the  battles  of  Charier oi 2  and 
Mons,  von  Biilow,  in  his  instructions  for  the  24th,  directed 
the  First  Army  to  continue  the  attack  on  the  British  and 
"  to  send  the  IX.  Corps  round  the  west  side  of  Maubeuge 
"  as  soon  as  possible,  with  the  //.  Corps  in  echelon  behind 
"  it,  in  order  to  envelop  the  left  flank  of  the  French  Fifth 
"  Army."  This,  he  says,  could  not  be  carried  out  because 
the  British  offered  "  renewed  "  resistance  on  the  24th. 

The  German  Second  Army,  with  von  Richthofen's  Cavalry 
Corps,  continuing  the  pursuit  of  the  French  Fifth  Army 
on  that  day,  reached  in  the  evening  an  east  and  west  line 
between  Dinant  and  Maubeuge,  and  detailed  the  VII. 
Corps,  the  right  of  its  line,  to  watch  the  south-eastern  side 
of  the  French  fortress.  Von  der  Marwitz's  Cavalry  Corps 

1  Kluck,  p.  9.  2  See  p.  85. 


was  sent  towards  Tournai  and  Denain  "  to  attack  the  British 
left  flank." 

On  the  25th,  the  First  Army  was  to  continue  the 
attack  against  the  British,  enveloping  their  left  wing; 
"  but  the  enemy,  by  a  cleverly  executed  retirement, 
"  evaded  the  First  Army,  in  spite  of  the  latter's  brilliant 
"  marching  performances." * 

The  Second  Army  continued  the  pursuit  of  the  French, 
but  in  a  south-westerly  direction,  so  that  at  night  the 
heads  of  its  four  corps  were  roughly  on  a  south-east  and 
north-west  line  passing  through  Solre  le  Chateau.  Mau- 
beuge  was  invested  by  the  VII.  Corps  on  the  south-east 
and  by  the  IX.  Corps  (of  the  First  Army)  on  the  north- 

"  Strong  portions  of  the  14th  Division  were,  if  possible, 
"  to  advance  round  the  south  of  Maubeuge  against  the  rear 
"  of  the  British,  in  the  direction  of  Aulnoye  " 


"  the  /.  Cavalry  Corps  was  also  ordered  to  push  forward  in 
"  a  westerly  direction  via  Aulnoye  to  hinder  the  retreat  of 
"  the  British." 

But  neither  infantry  nor  cavalry  got  within  a  march  of 
Aulnoye  and,  in  any  case,  the  British  were  six  miles  south 
of  that  place  on  the  evening  of  the  25th  August. 

Thus  it  was  that  on  this  day  the  British  were  not  in 
contact  with  the  German  Second  Army  ;  of  their  collision 
with  the  First  Army  the  next  chapter  will  tell. 

On  the  same  day  General  von  Gallwitz,  who  was  in 
charge  of  the  siege  of  Namur  (with  the  Guard  Reserve  and 
XI.  Corps,  the  inner  flank  corps  of  the  Second  and  Third 
Armies),  was  able  to  report  that,  except  for  a  few  forts  on 
the  south-west  front,  the  fortress  was  in  his  hands.  So 
that  there  was  every  prospect  of  these  corps  becoming 
available  in  the  near  future. 



The   following  were   the   movements   of  General   Valabregue's 
Group,  21st-25th  August,  as  given  in  General  Palat's  "  La  Grande 

1  The  movements  of  the  First  Army  are  described  further  on  p.  130 
et  seq. 


Guerre  sur  le  Front  Occidental,"  vol.  iii.  pp.  801-2,  818,  826.     They  22-25  Aug. 
are  of  interest,  as  this  group  was  the  nearest'  French  formation  of  all      1914. 
arms  on  the  right  of  the  British  Forces. 

On  the  22nd  August,  General  Valabregue  still  had  his  head-  Map  3. 
quarters  at  Avesnes  (10  miles  south  of  Maubeuge).  On  the  evening 
of  the  21st,  the  69th  Reserve  Division  commenced  a  movement  north- 
east on  Beaumont  and  Cousolre  (13  miles  and  10  miles  east  of  Mau- 
beuge, respectively).  On  the  22nd  at  9  P.M.  the  group  received 
orders  not  to  go  so  far  east,  but  to  march  northwards  towards  the 
Sambre,  so  as  to  have  its  left  on  the  fortress  of  Maubeuge,  and  its 
right  on  the  road  Solre  sur  Sambre — Beaumont,  facing  north-east. 
Its  march  was  much  impeded  by  the  crowds  of  refugees  on  the  roads. 

On  the  23rd  the  orders  to  the  group  were  slightly  changed  :  it 
was  to  go  further  northwards  and  prevent  the  passage  of  the  Sambre 
near  Solre  sur  Sambre  ;  for  this  purpose  it  was  to  take  up  a 
position  south  of  the  river  between  Montignies  and  the  Bois  de 
Jeumont,  69th  Reserve  Division  on  the  right,  53rd  Reserve  Division 
on  the  left,  headquarters  at  Solre  le  Chateau  (10  miles  south-east 
of  Maubeuge).  These  orders  were  in  course  of  execution,  when 
news  came  of  the  attack  on  the  British  at  Mons.  Towards  5  P.M. 
it  also  became  known  that  the  left  flank  of  the  French  XVIII.  Corps 
had  been  attacked  near  Thuin,  and  that  it  was  necessary  to  support 
it.  The  69th  Reserve  Division  was  then  ordered  north-eastwards 
towards  Thirimont  —  Bousignies  (both  two  miles  to  the  north  of 
Beaumont)  and  the  53rd,  on  its  left,  towards  Cousolre,  the  result  of 
which  was  to  widen  the  gap  between  the  Group  Valabregue  and  the 
British  Expeditionary  Force. 

On  the  24th,  after  an  engagement  in  which  the  53rd  Reserve 
Division  took  part,  the  Group  Valabregue  retired,  moving  past  the 
east  and  south  fronts  of  Maubeuge.  On  the  25th  it  continued  its 
retreat  by  Dompierre  to  the  north-west  of  Avesnes.  It  was  thus 
abreast  of  and  in  touch  with  the  British,  in  fact,  as  already  related, 
it  came  into  collision  on  the  roads  with  the  I.  Corps,  and  the  53rd 
Reserve  Division,  as  will  appear  later,  supported  that  corps  when 
attacked  at  Maroilles. 


EVENING   AND    NIGHT   OF   THE   25TH/26TH   AUGUST   1914 

(See  Sketch  3  ;   Maps  3,  9,  &  10) 


Sketch  3  WITH  the  fall  of  dusk  in  the  I.  Corps  area,  stories  brought 
Map  9  by  refugees  began  to  circulate  in  the  villages,  in  which  the 
British  were  settling  down,  of  the  approach  of  the  Germans 
to  Maroilles  and  Landrecies,  near  which  places  lay  the  two 
main  passages  over  the  Sambre  at  the  southern  end  of 
the  Forest  of  Mormal.  Sir  Douglas  Haig  had  taken  every 
precaution  against  a  hostile  attack  from  the  Forest  upon 
his  western  flank  during  his  retreat :  the  bridge  over  the 
Sambre,  which  lies  to  the  north-west  of  Maroilles  and 
carries  the  road  from  Le  Quesnoy  south-eastward  through 
the  Forest  by  Locquignol  to  Maroilles,  was  guarded  by  a 
troop  of  the  15th  Hussars.  Another  troop  watched  a  lock 
bridge  some  two  miles  farther  down  the  river.  Infantry 
was  to  relieve  the  cavalry  at  night :  at  Maroilles  the 
passages  of  the  Sambre  were  to  be  held  by  the  6th  Infantry 
Brigade  ;  and  those  near  Landrecies  by  the  4th  (Guards) 
Brigade.  On  the  right  of  the  I.  Corps  were  General 
Valabregue's  Reserve  divisions.  From  all  reports,  the 
enemy  was  not  within  striking  distance,1  and  so  little  were 
the  rumours  believed  that  an  officer  of  the  15th  Hussars 
was  denied  permission  by  the  local  civil  authorities  to 
destroy  some  wooden  buildings,  which  obstructed  his  view 
near  Maroilles  Bridge,  on  the  ground  that  no  Germans 
were  anywhere  near  him.  Suddenly,  about  5.30  P.M., 
there  was  a  panic  amongst  the  inhabitants  of  Landrecies, 
caused  by  cries  that  the  Germans  were  upon  them.  The 

1  According  to  the  statements  of  German  officers,  the  enemy  seems  to 
have  been  equally  unaware  of  our  presence  at  Landrecies  and  Maroilles 
see  footnote  1,  p.  126). 



troops  promptly  got  under  arms,  and  two  companies  of  25  Aug. 
the  3/Coldstream  took  post  at  the  road- junction  near  the  1914- 
railway  about  half  a  mile  to  the  north-west  of  the  town, 
and  mounted  patrols  were  sent  out,  but  without  finding 
any  enemy.  At  Maroilles  half  an  hour  later  (about  6  P.M.) 
German  patrols  1  engaged  the  two  detachments  of  the  15th 
Hussars,  but  were  easily  held  at  bay  for  an  hour,  when  the 
assailants  of  the  road  bridge  brought  up  a  field  gun  and, 
creeping  forward  under  cover  of  the  very  buildings  which 
the  British  officer  had  wished  to  destroy,  compelled  the 
troop  to  fall  back.  As  it  retired  towards  Maroilles,  it  was 
met  by  a  company  of  the  1 /Royal  Berkshire  which  was 
coming  up  in  relief.  The  infantry  took  post  by  the  Rue 
des  Juifs  about  a  mile  to  the  south-east  of  the  bridge.  The 
Germans  challenging  in  French  succeeded  in  enticing  a 
British  officer  forward  and  making  a  prisoner  of  him  ;  but 
they  made  no  further  advance  and  presently  retired. 

In  Maroilles  itself  there  was  for  a  time  such  a  congestion 
of  supply  lorries  and  of  refugees  with  their  vehicles,  that  the 
three  remaining  companies  of  the  Royal  Berkshire  could 
only  march  off  after  considerable  delay  to  the  support  of  the 
company  at  the  Rue  des  Juifs.  When  these  companies  at 
last  came  up,  they  found  that  the  enemy  had  retired,  and 
accordingly  pushed  on  to  recover  the  lost  bridge.  The 
only  access  to  this,  however,  was  by  a  causeway  over 
marshy  ground,  and  the  enemy  having  barricaded  the 
bridge  and  put  his  field  gun  into  position,  the  Royal  Berk- 
shire failed  to  drive  him  from  it.  After  suffering  a  total 
loss  of  over  sixty  men,  it  was  decided  to  make  no  further 
attempt  to  recapture  the  bridge  until  daylight ;  they  were 
therefore  obliged  to  content  themselves  with  forbidding 
advance  along  the  causeway. 

Meanwhile  at  Landrecies  there  had  also  been  fighting. 
The  patrols  returned  with  the  report  that  all  was  clear  and 
the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  was  confirmed  in  its  belief  that 
the  first  alarm  at  5.30  P.M.  had  been  a  false  one.  •  The 
exodus  of  inhabitants,  however,  still  continued,  and  subse- 
quent events  proved  that  the  rumour  was  true.  It  seems 
that  the  advanced  guard  of  the  German  IV.  Corps  2 — an 

1  The  force  that  came  to  Maroilles  was  the  48th  Infantry  Regiment  of 
the  5th  Division,  III.  Corps,  the  advanced  guard  of  the  5th  Division  (see 
footnote  4,  p.  131). 

2  Kuhl,  "  Marne,"  p.  73,  definitely  states  that  the  troops  which  "  en- 
countered resistance  "  at  Landrecies   belonged  to  the  IV.  Corps.      The 
original  report  that  it  was  part  of  the  IX.  Corps  appears  to  have  been  due 
to  an  identification  received  by  wireless  from  the  Eiffel  Tower,  Paris.     For 
the  German  movements  on  the  25th  see  pp.  130-32  below. 


infantry  brigade  (the  14th)  with  a  battery — had  marched 
from  Le  Quesnoy  past  the  south  of  the  Forest  towards 
Landrecies  for  the  purpose  of  billeting  there,  entirely 
ignorant  of  the  presence  of  the  British.  On  discovering  the 
town  was  occupied,  the  vanguard  crept  along  the  hedges 
and  corn-stooks,  and  entrenched  themselves  parallel  to 
the  road  not  five  hundred  yards  from  the  line  of  the  two 
advanced  companies  of  the  3/Coldstream.  They  even  loop- 
holed  a  garden  wall  still  closer  to  those  companies.  At 
7.30  P.M.  No.  3  Company  of  the  3/Coldstream  was  on  piquet, 
on  the  road,  with  a  machine  gun  upon  each  flank,  and  wire 
entanglements  a  short  distance  ahead.  Wheels  and  horses 
were  heard  approaching  along  the  road ; *  and  the  sentry 
challenged.  The  challenge  was  answered  in  French  ;  a 
body  of  men  loomed  through  the  darkness,  and  the  officer 
in  command  advanced  to  question  them.  He  was  answered 
always  in  French,  but  in  the  course  of  the  parley  the 
supposed  Frenchmen  edged  themselves  up  closer  to  the 
piquet,  and  then,  suddenly  and  without  the  slightest 
warning,  lowered  their  bayonets  and  charged.  In  the 
first  moment  of  surprise,  they  knocked  down  the  officer, 
seized  the  right-hand  machine  gun  and  dragged  it  away 
ten  yards,  but  a  few  seconds  later  they  were  swept  away 
by  a  volley  from  the  piquet,  and  the  machine  gun  was 

The  piquet  was  at  once  reinforced  ;  and  the  rest  of  the 
4th  (Guards)  Brigade  turned  out,  the  2/Grenadiers  coming 
up  to  the  support  of  the  Coldstream  along  the  road  from 
the  railway  northwards.  Charge  after  charge  was  made  by 
the  enemy  without  gaining  any  advantage,  and  at  8.30  P.M. 
German  artillery  opened  fire  upon  the  town  and  upon  the 
piquet.  This  fire  was  accurate,  but  the  German  infantry- 
men shot  far  too  high  and  accomplished  little,  until,  having 
by  means  of  incendiary  bombs  set  light  to  some  straw- 
stacks  in  a  farmyard  close  to  the  British,  they  apparently 
realized  for  the  first  time,  by  the  light  of  the  flames,  that 
their  way  was  barred  only  by  a  single  thin  line.2  There- 
upon they  tried,  but  unsuccessfully,  to  enfilade  the  Guards. 
The  engagement  went  on  until  past  midnight  when  a 

1  This,  according  to  the  story  of  a  German  general  who  was  present, 
was  the  regimental  transport  which  was  ordered  to  trot  past  the  column 
to  get  to  the  billets. 

2  Lance- Corporal  G.  H.  Wyatt,  3rd  Coldstream  Guards,  dashed  at  and 
extinguished  the  burning  straw,  though  the  enemy  was  only  25  yards 
distant.     For  this  and  a  further  act  of  bravery  at  Villers  Cottlrets  on  1st 
September,  he  received  the  Victoria  Cross. 


howitzer  of  the  60th  Battery  was  brought  up  by  hand  25  Aug. 
within  close  range  and  with  its  third  round  silenced  the  1914- 
German  guns.  This  seems  to  have  decided  the  issue  ;  and 
the  enemy  drew  off.  The  losses  of  the  3/Coldstream  were 
one  hundred  and  twenty ;  those  of  the  Germans,  according 
to  their  official  casualty  lists,  were  127.1  By  about  4  A.M. 
on  the  26th,  all  was  again  quiet  on  the  line  of  the  I.  Corps. 
But,  as  it  was  impossible  in  the  dark  to  discover  the 
scope  of  the  attack,  the  information  sent  back  to  G.H.Q. 
from  the  I.  Corps  was  somewhat  alarming.  It  stated  at 
1.35  A.M.  that  the  situation  was  very  critical,  and  at  3.50 
A.M.,  it  was  suggested  that  the  troops  near  Le  Cateau  should 
assist  by  advancing  straight  on  Landrecies.  Although  the 
situation  was  soon  restored  and  better  news  sent,  all  this, 
and  the  uncertainty  as  to  what  the  Forest  of  Mormal 
might  conceal,  tended  to  confirm  the  view  of  G.H.Q.  that 
the  continuation  of  the  retirement  was  the  proper  course. 


The  labours  of  the  II.  Corps  lasted  to  as  late  an  hour  Map  9 
on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th  as  those  of  the  I.  Corps.  All 
through  the  evening  the  stream  of  transport  flowed  slowly 
and  uneasily  through  Solesmes,  and  shortly  before  dark  the 
Germans  closed  more  resolutely  on  the  South  Lancashire 
and  Wiltshire  (7th  Infantry  Brigade),  the  rear  guard  of 
the  3rd  Division  before  that  town,  and  brought  their 
artillery  up  to  close  range,  though  pushing  forward  only 
small  bodies  of  infantry.  They  did  not,  however,  really 
press  hard  and,  when  darkness  fell,  went  into  bivouac. 
This  enabled  the  two  battalions  to  be  withdrawn,  much 
scattered,  indeed,  and  with  the  loss  of  several  small  detach- 

1  The  following  information  was  obtained  from  Berlin  in  1921 : 
The  German  forces  involved  in  the  fighting  at  Landrecies  consisted 
of  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade  (Major-General  von  Oven)  of  the  IV.  Corps, 
containing  the  27th  and  165th  Infantry  Regiments,  one  squadron  10th 
Hussars,  and  the  4th  Field  Artillery  Regiment.  Of  these  the  165th  Infantry 
Regiment  and  three  batteries  were  only  employed  in  the  later  stages  of  the 

Casualties  :  27th  Inf.  Rgt. — 1  officer,  32  men  killed, 

4  officers,  65  men  wounded  ; 
165th  Inf.  Rgt. — 3  men  wounded, 
2  men  missing  ; 

10th  Hussars — 1  man  wounded  ; 
4th  Field  Artillery  Rgt. — 3  officers  and  16  men  killed ; 

total  casualties,  127. 
See  also  footnote  1,  p.  132. 


ments  cut  off  by  the  enemy,  but  without  further  mishap.1 
The  4th  Division  meanwhile  stood  fast  on  the  heights  im- 
mediately south  of  Solesmes,  while  the  mass  of  transport 
and  troops  disentangled  itself  on  the  roads  leading  south  and 
south-east  upon  Caudry  and  Le  Cateau.  The  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigade,  with  the  headquarters  and  portions  of  the  2nd, 
pushed  through  the  congested  streets  of  Le  Cateau  on  to 
Catillon,  where  it  halted  for  the  night  between  10  and  11 
P.M.  The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  bivouacked  in  the  fields 
south  of  Le  Cateau,  with  the  exception  of  the  5th  Dragoon 
Guards,  who  retired  after  dark  to  Inchy  and  thence  shortly 
before  midnight  to  Troisvilles,  west  of  Le  Cateau,  their 
horses  utterly  exhausted.  The  19th  Infantry  Brigade, 
together  with  two  companies  of  the  Scots  Fusiliers  which 
had  lost  connection  with  the  rear  guard  of  the  9th  Infantry 
Brigade,  marched  into  Le  Cateau  at  10  P.M.  and  bivouacked 
in  the  central  square  and  at  the  goods  station.  The  bulk 
of  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade  retired  to  Caudry,  but  the  Irish 
Rifles  and  the  41st  Battery,  the  last  party  of  the  rear  guard, 
only  reached  Le  Cateau  about  10  P.M.,  when  finding  they 
could  not  rejoin  their  brigades  direct,  owing  to  the  rapid 
advance  of  the  enemy,  they  passed  southward  to  Reumont, 
where  they  bivouacked  at  2  A.M.  on  the  26th.  At  least 
one  detachment  of  the  Wiltshire,  having  with  some  diffi- 
culty avoided  capture,  also  found  its  way  into  Le  Cateau 
in  the  early  hours  of  the  26th.  The  masses  of  troops, 
guns  and  transport  at  dusk  and  for  many  hours  after- 
wards pressing  through  the  northern  entrance  to  the  town 
created  extraordinary  congestion.  The  British  alone  would 
have  sufficed  to  crowd  it,  and  besides  the  British  a  con- 
siderable body  of  French  Chasseurs 2  marched  in  from 
Valenciennes.  The  mile  of  road  from  Montay  to  Le  Cateau 
falls  very  steeply  and  becomes  a  defile,  and  here  infantry, 
cavalry,  guns  and  wagons,  in  places  three  abreast,  were 
jammed  together  in  what  seemed  irremediable  confusion. 

1  Both  infantry  brigades  of  the  German  8th  Division  (IV.  Corps)  and 
the  4th  Cavalry  Division  had  casualties  at  Solesmes  on  25th  •  August  (see 
"Schlachten  und  Gefechte"). 

The  action  seems  to  have  been  regarded  as  a  serious  one  by  the  Germans, 
for  the  official  name  of  "  The  Battle  of  Solesmes  and  Le  Cateau  "  is  given 
to  the  fighting  on  25th/27th  August  1914.  Von  Kluck  states  :  "  The 
"  IV.  Corps  was  able  to  attack  the  British  troops  at  Solesmes,  but  they  did 
"  not  evacuate  the  village  until  after  nightfall,  after  putting  up  an  obstinate 
"  resistance."  So  unexpected  was  this  that  v.  Kluck  himself  arrived 
in  the  town  during  the  fight,  having  selected  it  as  his  night  quarters. 

2  The  narrative  of  Colonel  H.  L.  James,  2/Manchester,  is  the  authority 
for  this  statement. 


Had  the  Germans  pushed  on,  even  with  a  small  force  25  Aug. 
supported  by  guns,  they  might  have  done  terrible  damage,  1914- 
for  one  or  two  shells  would  have  sufficed  to  produce  a 
complete  block  on  the  road ;  the  rear  parties  of  the 
Suffolks  and  Manchesters  (14th  Infantry  Brigade),  rear 
guard  of  the  5th  Division,  had  been  withdrawn  at  dusk,  and 
there  would  have  been  nothing  to  stop  an  enterprising 
enemy.  But  the  Germans  were  no  less  weary  than  the 
British,  and  they  had  also  gained  sufficient  experience  of 
British  rapid  fire  to  make  them  cautious.  They  had  gone 
into  bivouac  here  as  at  Solesmes  ;  and  though  at  dusk  they 
were  in  force  only  five  miles  away,1  they  left  the  British 
free  to  disentangle  themselves  at  their  leisure.  The  process 
was  long  and  tedious,  and  until  a  late  hour  Viesly  was  as 
hopelessly  blocked  as  Solesmes  had  been. 

Though  the  4th  Division  had  been  unmolested  since 
dusk,  except  by  one  or  two  cavalry  patrols  which  were 
quickly  driven  off,  it  was  not  free  to  begin  to  move  off  until 
9  P.M.  During  its  detention  near  Solesmes  the  remainder 
of  its  Divisional  Artillery,  except  the  Heavy  Battery,  had 
been  detraining,  and  the  2/Royal  Inniskilling  Fusiliers, 
which  had  not  come  up  with  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade, 
arrived  at  Ligny,  where  it  took  over  guard  of  the  divisional 
transport.  In  view  of  the  flank  march  that  the  division 
would  later  have  to  make  to  its  new  position  on  the  left  of 
the  Le  Cateau  line,  two  companies  of  this  battalion  were 
in  the  afternoon  sent  as  a  western  flank  guard  to  occupy 
Bevillers  and  Beauvois.  A  hasty  reconnaissance  of  the  Map  10. 
new  ground  was  made  by  Brigadier-General  Haldane,  and 
he  selected  a  good  reverse-slope  position,  or,  as  it  was  then 
called,  "  back  position,"  covering  Haucourt. 

At  5  P.M.  4th  Division  warning  orders  for  the  march  to 
and  occupation  of  the  position  were  issued.2  A  G.H.Q. 
alteration,  sent  out  at  6.40  P.M.,  reduced  the  length  of  front 
to  be  held,  and  made  it  from  Fontaine  au  Pire  to  Wambaix, 
that  is  to  say  about  three  miles.  The  orders  directed  that 
the  llth  and  12th  Infantry  Brigades  should  hold  the  front 
line,  with  the  10th  in  reserve  at  Haucourt,  whilst  the 
artillery  should  assemble  at  Ligny. 

The  artillery  (with  the  exception  of  the  XXXII. 
Brigade,  which  was  with  the  rear  guard)  arrived  fairly  early 

1  This  would  appear  to  be  part  of  the  IV.  Corps  which  spent  the  night 
at  Bousies  and  adjoining  villages,  with  the  main  body  of  the  ///.  behind 
it  at  Jolimetz  and  beyond. 

2  Appendix  15. 

VOL.  I  K 


in  the  evening  ;  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade  moved  off  from 
the  heights  above  Solesmes  soon  after  9  P.M.  ;  the  llth,  an 
hour  later  ;  and  the  10th  Infantry  Brigade,  which  could 
not  move  until  the  3rd  Division  got  clear  of  Briastre,  at 
midnight.  As  the  three  brigades  marched  off  south-west 
rain  was  falling  heavily  and  the  darkness  was  only  relieved 
on  the  northern  horizon  by  the  red  glow  of  villages  fired  by 
the  enemy.  Meantime,  instructions  from  G.H.Q.,  received 
in  the  afternoon,  intimated  that  the  retirement  would 
probably  be  continued  at  7  A.M.  next  morning,  but  it  was 
on  the  position  above  defined  that  the  troops  of  the  4th 
Division  stood  when  the  first  shots  were  fired  in  the  early 
morning  of  the  26th. 

The  head  of  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  had  passed 
through  Ligny,  behind  the  Le  Cateau  position,  in  the  course 
of  the  day,  and  the  corps  bivouacked  for  the  night  near 
Walincourt.  The  end  of  his  long  march  and  his  arrival  on 
the  western  flank  of  the  British  was,  perhaps,  the  one  cheer- 
ful feature  in  a  gloomy  situation. 

THE  25TH  AUGUST  1914 

Map  3.  Von  Kluck's  book  and  the  special  sketch-map  for  the 
25th/26th  August  which  he  has  provided  make  it  perfectly 
clear  how  there  came  to  be  collisions  between  the  British 
and  the  Germans  at  Maroilles,  Landrecies  and  Solesmes  on 
the  night  of  the  25th/26th. 

On  the  evening  of  the  24th  August  he  issued  opera- 
tion orders  in  the  expectation  that  the  British  Army  would 
accept  battle  on  the  line  Maubeuge — Bavai — Valenciennes, 
making  his  plans  for  a  "  Cannae  "  on  a  small  scale.  His 
IX.  Corps  was  to  attack  against  Bavai,  that  is  against 
General  Haig,  and  guard  against  any  interference  from 
Maubeuge;  the  III.  Corps  against  St.  Vaast — Wargnies,  that 
is  against  General  Smith-Dorrien  ;  the  IV.  Corps  was  to 
envelop  the  British  western  flank  ;  and  the  II.  Cavalry 
Corps  was  to  work  round  in  rear  of  the  British  and  cut 
off  their  retreat  "  westwards."  With  the  //.  Corps  only  a 
march  in  rear  and  close  to  Conde,  and  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps 
following  on,  "  the  envelopment  of  the  British  Army,  pro- 
vided it  stood,  seemed  certain." 

The  First  Army  Staff  appears  to  have  been  considerably 
misled  by  air  reports.  Those  of  the  evening  of  the  24th 
and  early  morning  of  the  25th  gave  "  the  impression  of  a 


general  retreat  on  Maubeuge  "  : *• — columns  were  converg-  25  Aug. 
ing  on  Bavai,  and  the  roads  from  Le  Quesnoy  to  the  south   1914- 
and  south-west,  as  well  as  the  main  roads  through  the  Forest 
of  Mormal  were  reported  clear  of  troops.     At  7.15  A.M.  orders 
were  sent  out  by  motor  car  for  the  //.,  ///.  and  IV.  Corps 
to  wheel  southwards  on  Aulnoye,  Landrecies  and  Le  Cateau, 
and  the  //.  Cavalry  Corps  to  advance  to  the  area  north- 
west of  Guise.     "  It  was  hoped  to  cut  off  the  British  and 
then  turn  against  the  left  flank  of  the  French." 

At  9  A.M.,  however,  the  "  surprising  air  report  "  arrived 
that  long  columns  were  moving  from  Bavai  on  Le  Cateau 
by  the  Roman  Road  and  that  numerous  small  columns  were 
crossing  the  Selle,  north  and  south  of  Solesmes.  "The 
"  enemy  was  marching  in  an  almost  opposite  direction  to 
"  what  was  supposed  earlier  in  the  morning."  Fresh  orders 
were  rapidly  sent  out  to  attack  the  British  and  prevent  their 
further  retreat : — The  //.  Cavalry  Corps  was  to  head  them 
off,  the  ///.  Corps  to  make  its  right  (west)  column  stronger, 
the  IV.  Corps  to  march  with  its  right  wing  on  Solesmes — 
Le  Cateau,  with  the  II.  Corps  west  of  it.  The  IX. 
Corps  was  to  continue  opposite  Maubeuge  covering  the 

In  accordance  with  these  orders,  the  IX.  Corps  wheeled 
south-eastwards  from  Bavai  and  commenced  investing 
Maubeuge.2  The  ///.  Corps,  passing  over  the  old  front  Map  9. 
of  Smith-Dorrien's  corps,  St.  Vaast — Wargnies,  in  two 
divisional  columns,  pushed  its  advanced  guards  through 
the  Forest  of  Mormal  south-eastwards  by  the  two  good 
roads  which  lead  to  Berlaimont  and  Maroilles.  At  night 
the  5th  Division  billeted  and  bivouacked  in  the  Forest, 
along  the  high  road  Maroilles — Le  Quesnoy,  in  the  area 
Hachette  (near  the  bridge  over  the  Sambre  2  miles  N.N.W. 
of  Maroilles) — Locquignol — Jolimetz  ;  3  and  the  leading 
troops  of  its  advanced  guard  came  in  contact  with  the 
1 /Royal  Berkshire  of  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade,  as  already 
related.4  The  6th  Division  halted  north  of  the  5th 
Division^  with  half  its  troops  on  either  side  of  the  Forest : — 
the  llth  Brigade  and  part  of  the  divisional  troops  in  the 
area,  west  of  the  Forest,  between  Villereau — Gommegnies 

1  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  73. 

2  There  is  a  good  account  of  the  investment  of  Maubeuge  by  the  IX. 
Corps  on  the  25th  August,  the  blocking  of  the  roads,  construction  of 
entanglements,  etc.,  in  Tepp's  "  In  Siegessturm  nach  Paris." 

3  This  information  was  obtained  in  Berlin  in  January  1922. 

4  See  p.  125.     The  III.  Battalion  of  the  48th  Infantry  Regiment  was  in 
action  at  Maroilles  (Kaupert's  "Das  Infanterie-Regiment  No.  48,"  p.  16). 


— Amfroipret  and  the  border  of  the  Forest ;  the  12th 
Brigade  and  the  rest  of  the  divisional  troops  in  the  area, 
east  of  the  Forest,  La  Grande  Carriere — Aymeries — Ber- 
laimont — Sassegnies. 

The  IV.  Corps,  marching  due  south,  also  advanced  in 
two  columns,  one  via  Le  Quesnoy  and  then  past  the  south- 
west boundary  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal  to  Landrecies,  and 
the  other  via  Valenciennes  to  Solesmes.  Thus  they  came 
in  contact  with  the  British  2nd  x  and  3rd  Divisions.  The 
//.  Cavalry  Corps  billeted  four  to  eight  miles  east  of 
Cambrai,  around  Avesnes  lez  Aubert. 

Map  3.  Of  the  German  Second  Army,  as  already  noticed,  the  VII. 
Corps  was  detailed  to  invest  the  eastern  side  of  Maubeuge. 
The  X.  Reserve  Corps  was  near  Solre  le  Chateau  on  the 
night  of  the  25th/26th  August,  and  its  head,  together  with 
the  /.  Cavalry  Corps,  only  reached  Marbaix  (roughly  the 
right  of  the  British  front  on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th) 
late  on  the  26th.2 

Map  9.  Thus  it  was  that  on  the  evening  of  the  25th,  the  German 
II.  Cavalry  Corps  and  IV.  and  ///.  Corps  were  close 
enough  to  the  British  to  be  able  to  strike  in  force  at  Le 
Cateau  in  the  early  morning,  whilst  the  IV.  Reserve,  II. 
and  X.  Reserve  were  within  a  march  of  the  field,  with  parts 
of  the  IX.  and  VII.  Corps,  drawn  from  the  investment  of 
Maubeuge,  available  in  case  of  need. 


Map  2.  It  is  convenient  to  notice  here  that  during  the  24th, 
25th  and  26th  August  the  Belgian  Army,  in  order  to  assist 
the  French  and  British  troops  fighting  on  the  Sambre  and 

1  The  following  extract  from  a  book  by  Oberleutnant  Dr.  Lohrisch, 
published  in  1917,  entitled  "  Im  Siegessturm  von  Liittich  an  die  Marne," 
throws  a  little  light  on  Landrecies.     His  battalion  (I.  of  the  27th  Infantry 
Regiment)  marched  on  the  25th  via  Le  Quesnoy  to  Bousies  (four  miles 
north-west  of  Landrecies),  where  it  halted  for  the  night.     He.  continues — 

Our  advanced  guard  stumbled  on  the  enemy  at  Landrecies,  and  the  II. 
and  111.  Battalions,  which  were  billeted  at  Robersart  and  Fontaine  au 
Bois  (west  of  Bousies),  and  two  of  our  companies  were  sent  forward  in  the 
direction  of  the  little  town.  ...  At  5.45  A.M.  (on  the  26th)  the  regiment 
was  ordered  to  capture  Landrecies,  as  the  tired  troops  sent  forward  the 
night  before,  on  account  of  difficulties  caused  by  the  darkness  and  ignor- 
ance of  the  ground,  had  been  compelled  to  stop  their  operations." 

2  See  von  Bulow  and  Vogel.     On  the  night  of  the  25th/26th  the  Guard 
Cavalry  Division  was  at  Liessies  (12  miles  east  of  Marbaix),  and  the  2nd 
Cavalry  Division  at  Sivry,  6  miles  behind  it  ("  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  pp. 
70,  71). 


on  the  Mons   Canal,   made  a  sortie  against  the  German  25  Aug. 
corps  observing  Antwerp,  with  a  view  to  detaining  them   1914^ 
there,  and,  if  possible,  acting  against  the  German  com- 
munications passing  through  Lou  vain  and  Brussels. 

On  the  24th  a  reconnaissance  was  made,  and  on  the 
25th  four  divisions,  with  a  fifth  division  and  the  cavalry 
division  in  reserve,  attacked  southwards  from  Malines 
towards  the  gap  between  Lou  vain  and  Brussels.  Good 
progress  was  made,  and  the  fight  continued  on  the  26th, 
when  information  from  Paris  of  the  withdrawal  of  the 
French  and  British  forces  having  been  received,  and  also 
of  the  intention  of  General  Joffre  to  resume  the  offensive 
at  a  later  date,  it  was  decided  to  adopt  a  similar  course 
a,nd  retire  into  Antwerp. 

As  will  be  seen,  the  second  Belgian  sortie  took  place 
during  the  Battle  of  the  Marne. 


At  7.30  P.M.  on  the  25th  August  the  British  Commander-  Map  3. 
in-Chief,  who  had  at  6  P.M.  established  his  headquarters  at 
St.  Quentin,  issued  his  orders — without,  of  course,  having  the 
exact  information  as  to  the  enemy  which  has  just  been  given 
— for  the  retreat  to  be  continued  ten  to  fifteen  miles  to  the 
south-west  on  the  morrow.1  According  to  these  orders, 
the  I.  Corps  was  to  use  the  road  from  Le  Cateau  to  Busigny 
and  take  up  its  billets  in  the  area  of  Busigny  ;  the  II. 
Corps  was  to  billet  about  Fremont  and  Beaurevoir,  and  the 
4th  Division  at  Le  Catelet.  Communications  from  General 
Joffre  admitted  that  his  attempt  at  the  offensive  had 
failed,  and  that  his  intention  was  to  retire  to  the  line  Laon 
—La  Fere — St.  Quentin,  and  from  this  position  to  take  the 
offensive  again.  There  seemed  little  time  to  lose.  The 
enemy  was  in  touch  with  the  British  at  several  places,  and 
had  considerable  forces  within  a  few  miles  of  them.  The 
Germans  were  known  to  be  pushing  troops  with  all- speed 
towards  the  western  flank  of  the  British,  where  General 
d'Amade's  six  Reserve  and  Territorial  divisions  guarded 
the  long  line  to  the  sea.  The  I.  Corps  had  already  been 
struck  at  Maroilles  and  at  Landrecies,  the  II.  at  Solesmes  ; 
and  it  was  not  difficult  to  guess  what  these  blows  might 
portend.  Sir  Douglas  Haig's  troops  stood  to  arms  all 
night,  losing  the  rest  of  which  they  were  so  much  in  need  ; 
and  it  was  feared  that  the  attack  at  Landrecies  might  mean 

1  Appendix  14. 


that  the  Germans  were  already  in  force  across  the  southern 
end  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal,  between  Landrecies  and  the 
Roman  Road.1  It  will  be  remembered  that  on  the  after- 
noon of  the  25th  Sir  Douglas  Haig  had  issued  instructions 
for  the  I.  Corps  to  march  at  2  A.M.  to  the  right  of  the  Le 
Cateau  position.2  These  orders  he  cancelled  on  receiving 
those  of  the  Field-Marshal  to  continue  on  to  Busigny. 


Map  9.  Only  a  sketch  would  give  an  idea  how  the  various 
units  of  the  II.  Corps  had  been  jostled  between  the  barrier 
of  the  Forest  of  Mormal,  which  edged  them  away  to  the 
west,  and  the  pressure  of  the  enemy  on  the  western  flank, 
which  bore  them  back  towards  the  east.  To  General 
Smith-Dorrien  the  true  situation  did  not  reveal  itself  until 
late  at  night.  At  10.15  P.M.  he  too  had  issued  orders  for 
the  renewal  of  the  retreat  to  the  line  prescribed  by  Sir 
John  French  :  the  transport  to  start  at  4  A.M.  and  the  main 
bodies  at  7  A.M.3 

Meantime,  the  divisions  of  his  corps,  acting  on  his 
previous  order,  were  in  readiness  on  or  near  the  Le  Cateau 
position  :  the  3rd  Division,  under  orders  issued  at  9.42 
P.M.,  was  to  stand  to  arms  at  4  A.M.  and  be  prepared  to 
occupy  the  sections  of  the  position  allotted  in  case  of 
attack ;  and  two  and  a  half  infantry  brigades  of  the  5th 
Division  were  bivouacking  on  a  line  across  the  Troisvilles — 
Le  Cateau  roads,  with  the  remaining  two  battalions  posted 
on  the  high  ground  north-east  of  Le  Cateau  to  connect 
with  the  I.  Corps  as  originally  arranged  ;  this  division  had 
orders  to  stand  to  arms  at  3.30  A.M. 

G.H.Q.  orders  for  the  continuance  of  the  retreat,  and 
for  the  Cavalry  Division  to  cover  it  on  the  north  and  west,4 
had  not  reached  General  Allenby  at  his  headquarters  at 
Beaumont  until  after  11  P.M.  Shortly  after  their  receipt, 
Lieut. -Colonel  Ansell  of  the  5th  Dragoon  Guards  came  in  to 
report  that  his  regiment  and  the  4th  Division  had  safely 
withdrawn  from  the  high  ground  north  of  Viesly,  which 
overlooks  Solesmes,  and  that  the  enemy  was  in  possession 
of  it.  As  it  was  this  high  ground  and  the  ridges  abreast 
of  it  that  the  cavalry  must  occupy  to  cover  the  initial 
stages  of  the  retirement  from  the  Le  Cateau  position,  and 
General  Allenby  had  not  sufficient  force — in  fact,  only 

1  The  German  8th  Division  was  there,  with  the  5th  Division  in  rear  of  it. 

2  See  p.  115.  3  Appendix  16.  4  Appendix  14. 


the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade — under  his  hand  to  recapture  it,  26  Aug. 
he  proceeded  at  once  to  General  Smith-Dorrien's  head-  ° 
quarters  at  Bertry.  There  he  explained  the  situation,  and 
expressed  the  opinion  that,  the  Germans  being  so  close, 
unless  the  troops  of  the  II.  Corps  and  4th  Division  could 
march  "  before  daylight,"  the  enemy  would  be  upon  them 
before  they  could  start,  and  it  would  be  necessary  to  fight. 
General  Smith-Dorrien  thereupon  at  2  A.M.  sent  for  General 
Hubert  Hamilton,  commanding  the  3rd  Division,  whose  head- 
quarters were  close  at  hand,  and  asked  him  if  it  was  possible 
to  get  on  the  move  during  the  hours  of  darkness.  His  reply 
was  that  many  units  of  the  division  were  only  just  coming 
in,  and  that  he  did  not  think  that  he  could  get  them 
formed  up  for  retreat  before  9  A.M.  General  Allenby 
further  said  that  his  division  was  too  much  scattered  and 
exhausted  to  be  able  to  give  useful  assistance  in  covering 
the  retreat  next  day.1  General  Smith-Dorrien,  after  a 
full  discussion  of  the  situation  with  Generals  Allenby  and 
Hamilton,  reluctantly  came  to  the  decision  that  he  must 
stand  his  ground.  To  do  this  he  must  ask  the  commanders 
of  the  Cavalry  Division  and  of  the  4th  Division  to  place  them- 
selves under  his  orders ;  and  with  them  and  with  the  II.  Corps 
—that  is  to  say,  with  the  whole  of  the  British  troops  in  the 
line  from  Catillon  westwards — he  would  strike  the  enemy 
hard,  and,  after  he  had  done  so,  continue  the  retreat. 
Whether  he  could  withdraw  his  troops  after  such  a 
stand  would  depend  on  the  pressure  and  weight  of  the 
German  attack.  Several  German  cavalry  divisions,  and  the 
head  of  a  division  of  the  German  IV.  Corps  were  already 
before  him,  the  British  I.  Corps  had  been  attacked  by 
another  corps,  and  further  forces  were  known  to  be  hurry- 
ing up.  Much  would  obviously  depend  on  breaking  off 
the  action  before  overwhelming  numbers  of  the  enemy 
became  effective.  To  guard  his  flanks  he  had  to  depend 
upon  the  weary  and  sorely  tried  Cavalry  Division,  with 
some  possibility  of  assistance  on  the  western  flank  from 
General  Sordet's  equally  weary  Cavalry  Corps,  and  on  the 
eastern  flank  from  the  I.  Corps,  should  it  not  be  held  fast 
itself.  Help  from  this  quarter,  however,  appeared  un- 
likely, and  indeed  Sir  Douglas  Haig  at  3.50  A.M.  asked  for 
assistance  from  the  II.  Corps.  The  situation,  in  short, 

1  The  I.  Corps  was  equally  "  exhausted,  and  could  not  get  further  in 
without  rest  "  ;  and  therefore  could  not  come  "  further  west  so  as  to  fill 
the  gap  between  Le  Cateau  and  Landrecies."  (See  Sir  John  French's 
Despatch,  7th  September  1914.) 


seemed  to  him  one  that  could  be  saved  only  by  desperate 
measures.  General  Allenby  promptly  accepted  the  invita- 
tion to  act  under  his  command  ;  General  Snow  of  the  4th 
Division  there  was  no  doubt  would  do  likewise  when  the 
request  reached  him. 

A  lengthy  message  was  despatched  by  II.  Corps  at 
3.30  A.M.  to  G.H.Q.  St.  Quentin,  by  motor  car,  which  was 
received  there  about  5  A.M.,  informing  Sir  John  French  in 
detail  of  the  decision  taken.  At  5  A.M.  another  message 
was  sent  asking  that  General  Sordet  might  be  told  that 
the  II.  Corps  was  not  retiring.  The  first  message  was 
acknowledged  by  a  reply,  sent  off  from  G.H.Q.  at  5  A.M.,1 
which,  after  giving  the  latest  information,  concluded  :— 

"  If  you  can  hold  your  ground  the  situation  appears 
"  likely  to  improve.  4th  Division  must  co-operate. 
"  French  troops  are  taking  offensive  on  right  of  I.  Corps. 
"  Although  you  are  given  a  free  hand  as  to  method  this 
"  telegram  is  not  intended  to  convey  the  impression  that 
"  I  am  not  as  anxious  for  you  to  carry  out  the  retirement 
"  and  you  must  make  every  endeavour  to  do  so." 

Shortly  after  6  A.M.  Sir  H.  Smith-Dorrien  communi- 
cated further  with  G.H.Q.  by  the  railway  telephone  ;  and 
G.H.Q.  warned  the  4th  Division  that  the  II.  Corps  might 
not  be  able  to  continue  the  retirement  at  the  time  arranged 
and  that  it  was  to  cover  Sir  H.  Smith  -  Dorrien's  left 

The  die  having  been  cast,  it  remained  only  for  General 
Smith-Dorrien  to  inform  his  subordinates.  As  General 
Hubert  Hamilton  had  been  present  at  the  conference,  this 
was  easy  as  regards  the  3rd  Division  ;  to  Sir  Charles 
Fergusson  he  went  himself  about  4  A.M.  and  whilst  he  was 
discussing  the  situation  the  commander  of  the  5th  Division 
drew  his  attention  to  the  fact  that  formed  bodies,  the  rear 
guard  of  the  3rd  Division,  were  still  coming  in,  dead  beat. 
The  actual  orders  to  stand  fast,  which  were  conveyed  by 
two  staff  officers  in  a  motor  car,  reached  5th  Divisional 
Headquarters  shortly  afterwards.  A  staff  officer  was  sent 
to  the  4th  Division,  but  did  not  arrive  at  Haucourt  until 
5  A.M.,  only  a  short  time  before  the  division  became 
engaged.  The  news  that  came  in  meanwhile  to  II.  Corps 
Headquarters  was  not  reassuring.  At  2.30  A.M.  General 
Smith-Dorrien  heard  that  the  Germans  had  occupied 

1  This  is  the  hour  given  on  the  message  form  and  in  the  Operations  file, 
but  comparison  with  the  times  of  other  messages  indicates  that  it  must 
have  been  later. 


Cambrai ;   and  at  3.45  A.M.  that  they  were  working  round  26  Aug. 
to  the  south  of  Landrecies.     These  details  were  neither  of  1914' 
them  true ;  but,  true  or  false,  they  could  not  affect  his 

Seeing  that  many  of  the  brigades  had  only  lately  come 
in,  it  was  inevitable  that  the  divisional  commanders  should 
have  considerable  difficulty  in  communicating  the  order  to 
stand  fast  to  their  brigadiers,  owing  to  the  uncertainty  of 
their  whereabouts  :  General  Shaw  of  the  9th  Infantry 
Brigade,  being  in  Beaumont,  received  the  order  through 
General  Allenby  at  3.30  A.M.  ;  the  7th  and  8th  Infantry 
Brigades,  having  stood  to  arms  at  4  A.M.,  were  actually  on 
the  position  and  improving  trenches  when  fired  on  at  6  A.M. 
There  is  no  record  of  the  order  not  to  retire  at  7  A.M.  reach- 
ing them.  Of  the  5th  Division,  Count  Gleichen  of  the 
15th  Infantry  Brigade,  being  nearest  to  Divisional  Head- 
quarters, heard  at  5  A.M.,  and  the  other  two  infantry 
brigadiers  about  6  A.M. 


We  left  the  4th  Division  marching  through  the  darkness  Map  9. 
to  take  up  its  position  on  the  extreme  left  of  General 
Smith-Dorrien's  line  between  Fontaine  au  Pire  and  Wam- 
baix,  with  its  reserve  at  Haucourt.2  The  first  of  the 
troops  to  reach  their  destination,  about  1  A.M.,  were  the 
headquarters  and  two  companies  of  the  2/Inniskilling 
which  had  left  Ligny  shortly  before  midnight  to  secure 
Esnes  (5  miles  south-east  of  Cambrai).  There  they  found 
a  small  party  of  General  Sordet's  cavalry  which  had 
barricaded  the  western  approaches  to  the  village.  The 
two  remaining  companies  of  the  battalion,  it  will  be 
recalled,  had  been  detached  as  a  flank  guard  to  Beauvois 
and  Bevillers  (both  about  four  miles  north-east  of  Esnes) 
on  the  afternoon  of  the  25th.  Just  after  darkness  fell, 
the  outposts  before  Bevillers  were  suddenly  aware  of  a 
troop  of  German  horse,  which  came  within  thirty  yards 
of  them  before  it  was  recognized  to  be  hostile,  and  was 
followed  by  six  motor  lorries  full  of  infantry.  The  Innis- 
killings  opened  rapid  fire,  with  what  effect  could  not  be 
seen,  but  the  enemy  retired  in  haste.  The  two  companies 
remained  in  their  positions  until  3  A.M.  when,  by  order  of 

1  Actually,  the  French  84th  Territorial  Division  was  in  occupation  of 
Cambrai  and  its  northern  approaches. 

2  See  p.  130. 


their  brigadier,  they  marched  for  Longsart  (just  north- 
west of  Haucourt).  Meanwhile,  the  advanced  guard  of 
the  12th  Infantry  Brigade — two  companies  of  the  Essex— 
which  had  left  Bethencourt  at  10  P.M.,  reached  Longsart 
about  3.30  A.M.,  and  the  2/Lancashire  Fusiliers  came 
in  a  little  later.  Both  parties  entrenched  themselves  on 
the  plateau  just  to  the  north-west  of  the  hamlet.  The 
1 /King's  Own  reached  the  eastern  end  of  Haucourt  shortly 
after  4  A.M.  and  halted  there,  General  Sordet's  rear  guard 
riding  through  the  village  during  the  halt.  At  4.30  A.M. 
the  two  remaining  companies  of  the  Essex  passed  their 
comrades  on  the  way  to  Haucourt ;  and  towards  5  A.M. 
the  advanced  companies  of  the  Inniskillings  also  came  in 
to  Longsart.  Thus  by  5  A.M.  the  whole  of  the  12th  Infantry 
Brigade  had  reached  its  allotted  ground.  During  these 
hours  the  10th  Infantry  Brigade  was  also  approaching  its 
position  in  reserve  at  Haucourt,  hungry,  wet  and  weary 
after  its  hurried  journey  to  Le  Cateau  by  train,  its  equally 
hurried  march  to  Solesmes,  and  its  heavy  duties  as  rear 
guard  to  the  4th  Division.  It  had  entered  Caudry  at  the 
first  streak  of  dawn,  and  by  4.30  A.M.  had  arrived  at 
Haucourt,  where  the  men  threw  themselves  down  and 
slept,  hoping  that,  being  in  reserve  to  the  division,  they 
might  have  a  little  rest.  A  French  cavalry  patrol  return- 
ing shortly  before  5  A.M.  reported  that  the  front  was  clear, 
but  there  was  no  means  of  verifying  this  except  by  using 
the  horses  of  field  officers  and  the  Staff,  for  reasons  which 
will  appear. 

Meanwhile,  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade  had  reached 
Fontaine  au  Pire,  on  the  right  of  the  12th,  at  2.45  A.M., 
and  halted  at  its  northern  end.  Its  rear  guard  —  two 
companies  of  the  I/Somerset  Light  Infantry — then  passed 
through  it  on  its  way  to  Ligny,  and  the  1 /Rifle  Brigade 
found  the  outposts  at  the  northern  end  of  Beauvois  (Beau- 
vois  and  Fontaine  au  Pire  are  actually  one  long  straggling 
village),  whilst  the  rest  of  the  brigade  slept.  At  5  A.M. 
the  battalions  were  just  moving  off  to  their  place  in  the 
line  when  German  guns  opened  upon  the  troops  to  the 
north  of  Beauvois.  No  enemy  was  to  be  seen  except  a 
few  cavalry  ;  so  the  1 /Rifle  Brigade  occupied  a  position 
to  the  north-west  of  the  village,  while  detachments  of 
the  three  remaining  battalions  covered  its  northern  and 
north-eastern  approaches.  Under  cover  of  this  screen, 
the  main  body  of  the  brigade  fell  back  and  occupied  a 
line  south-westward  from  the  "  Quarry  (Carrieres)  "  (a  little 


to  the  south-west  of  Fontaine),  with  its  left  battalion,  the  26  Aug. 
I/Hampshire,  astride  the  railway.  1914« 

Thus,  by  5  A.M.  on  the  26th,  the  infantry  of  the  4th 
Division  had  to  all  intents  occupied  the  positions  assigned 
to  it  for  the  night  of  the  25th/26th,  although,  owing  to 
the  darkness,  it  had  settled  down  on  the  forward  instead 
of  the  reverse  slope.  The  artillery  was  not  in  battle 
position,  as  the  Divisional  Artillery  Commander  was  with 
Divisional  Headquarters  and  therefore  expected  to  resume 
the  retirement  at  7  A.M. 

Though  complete  in  field  artillery  and  infantry,  the 
4th  Division  was  as  yet  without  its  Divisional  Cavalry  1 
and  Cyclists,  Heavy  Battery,  Field  Engineers,  Signal 
Company,2  Train,  Ammunition  Column  and  Field  Am- 
bulances. Hence  there  were  no  mounted  troops  to  furnish 
patrols  or  covering  parties,  no  60-pdrs.  to  mow  down  the 
enemy  before  deployment  as  was  done  with  such  striking 
effect  by  the  Heavy  Battery  of  the  5th  Division  on  the 
right,  no  engineers  to  superintend  working  parties,  very 
limited  means  of  attending  to  wounded,  no  means  of 
removing  them,  and,  above  all,  no  means  of  controlling 
from  divisional  headquarters  the  general  movements  of 
some  fifteen  thousand  men,  extended  along  a  front  of  five 
miles,  except  by  the  use  of  mounted  officers  and  orderlies. 
The  ground  on  which  the  4th  Division  lay,  on  the  left 
of  the  British  line,  was  a  dreary  boggy  moor,  soaked  by 
the  rain  of  the  previous  night,  and  in  many  places  churned 
into  deep  mud  by  the  passage  of  men,  horses,  guns  and 
vehicles  ;  and  over  such  a  surface  horses,  already  none  too 
fresh,  were  soon  exhausted  by  a  few  hard  gallops. 

The  4th  Division  had  received  instructions,  brought  by 
an  officer  from  G.H.Q.  at  midnight,  to  continue  the  re- 
treat to  Le  Catelet,  but  the  orders  for  the  march  had  not 
been  issued  to  the  brigades,  for  they  were  all  on  the  move. 
At  5  A.M.  officers  were  sent  out  to  ascertain  the  positions 
of  the  troops,  and  the  orders  were  ready  to  be  despatched 

1  The  Divisional  Cavalry  (one  squadron  of  the  19th  Hussars)  reached 
St.  Quentin  by  train  on  the  morning  of  the  26th  and  marched  at  4.30  A.M. 
It  was,  however,  intercepted  by  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  and  ordered  to 
join  it,  being  formed  into  a  composite  regiment  with  another  of  its  own 
squadrons  (Divisional  Cavalry  of  the  5th  Division),  and  half  a  squadron 
of  the  4th  Dragoon  Guards.     Had  it  been  free  to  march  to  its  own  division, 
however,  it  could  not  have  reached  it  in  time  to  carry  out  the  essential 
service  of  reconnaissance  to  the  front. 

2  The  Headquarters  Section  of  a  Divisional  Signal  Company  contained 
three    cable   sections    with    telephone   equipment,   motor   cyclists,   push 
cyclists,  mounted  men,  heliographs  and  other  means  of  communication. 


as  soon  as  the  officers  reported,  should  the  situation  permit 
retirement.  Almost  immediately  after  this,  Captain  Walcot 
arrived  from  General  Smith  -  Dorrien  to  announce  his 
decision  to  stand  and  request  that  the  4th  Division  would 
cover  his  flank.  General  Snow  agreed  to  do  so,  and  at 
5.30  A.M.  sent  messages  to  his  brigades  to  take  up  the 
positions  already  ordered,  and  to  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade 
to  get  in  touch  with  the  3rd  Division.  Shortly  after  this 
the  officers  who  had  been  to  them  returned  reporting,  to 
use  the  words  of  one  of  them,  that  the  infantry  were 
already  "  at  it  hammer  and  tongs." 



(See  Sketch  3  ;  Maps  10  &  11 x) 

THE  26th  August,  the  anniversary  of  Crecy,  dawned  hot  Sketch  3. 
and  misty,  with  some  prospect  that  the  historic  weather  MaP 10- 
of  A.D.  1346  would  be  repeated,  and  the  certainty  that 
in    an    almost    similarly    desperate    situation,    the    stout 
hearts  of  our  island  race  would  again  ensure  triumph  over 
superiority  of  numbers,  and  rob  the  enemy  of  what  he 
considered  an  easy  prey. 

It  may  be  recalled  that  although  in  the  first  instance 
it  was  the  intention  of  G.H.Q.  to  occupy  a  position  in  the 
neighbourhood  of  Le  Cateau,  a  subsequent  order  directed 
the  retreat  to  be  continued.2  It  was  upon  the  original 
understanding  and  in  expectation  that  the  I.  Corps  would 

1  After  Map  11  had  been  struck  off,  additional  information  with  regard 
to  the  situation  of  the  German  forces  was  obtained.     The  following  cor- 
rections should  therefore  be  made,  in  green,  commencing  on  the  East : — 

(1)  For  "  Advance  of  head  of  III.  Corps "  read  "  Advance  of  5th 

(2)  The  6th  Division  should  be  shown  on  the  Roman  Road,  with  its 
head  at  Forest  (5,000  yards  north-east  of  Le  Cateau),  "  about  7  P.M." 

(3)  The  following  should  be  substituted  for  the  information  about  the 
German  cavalry  and  Jdger : — 

The  4th  Cavalry  Division  attacking  against  Bethencourt  from  the 
north  ;  front  from  about  Prayelle  to  a  little  north-east  of  Jeune  Bois. 

(4)  13th  and  14th  Cavalry  Brigades  of  the  9th  Cavalry  Division  attacking 
against  Caudry  from  the  north  ;  front  Jeune  Bois  to  south-east  corner  of 

(5)  19th  Cavalry  Brigade  of  the  9th  Cavalry  Division,  with  3,  9,  and  10 
Jdger  Battalions,  attacking  against  Fontaine  au  Pire  from  north-west ; 
front  from  southern  end  of  Beauvais,  halfway  to  the  railway  station  south 
of  Cattenieres. 

(6)  2nd  Cavalry  Division,  with  4th  and  7th  Jdger  Battalions^  attacking 
against  Longsart,  from  the  north-west ;    front  from  right  of  9th  Cavalry 
Division  to  one  mile  north  of  Esnes. 

2  See  p.  115. 


142  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

be  in  touch  with  it  on  the  east,  that  the  dispositions  of 
the  troops  on  the  ground  were  made  by  the  II.  Corps. 
Although  officers  had  been  sent  ahead  to  reconnoitre 
the  position,  most  of  the  units  did  not  come  on  to  it  until 
dark,  and  heavy  rain  interfered  with  the  observation  of 
those  which  reached  it  earlier  in  the  day.  Moreover  it 
was  difficult  to  identify  places  by  the  map,  for  the  only 
one  then  available  was  the  French  uncontoured  hachured 
map  of  the  1  :  80,000  scale,  to  which  British  officers  were 
not  accustomed.  When  the  troops  stood  to  arms  about 
4  A.M.  under  orders  to  continue  the  retreat,  there  was 
a  heavy  ground  mist,  so  that,  though  the  troops  were 
approximately  in  position,  there  was  little  opportunity,  or 
apparent  necessity,  to  rectify  the  line  and  choose  the  best 
ground  to  repel  a  determined  attack  by  superior  numbers. 

The  town  of  Le  Cateau  lies  deep  in  the  narrow  valley 
of  the  river  Selle,  surrounded  on  all  sides  by  open  culti- 
vated country  and  occasional  moor,  with  never  a  fence, 
except  in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  the  villages,  and 
hardly  a  tree,  except  along  the  chaussees.  The  river, 
though  small,  is  unfordable.  The  heights  on  the  east, 
crescent  shaped,  slightly  overlook  those  on  the  west,  the 
highest  ground  of  which  is  roughly  a  T  in  plan  :  the 
head  (the  Reumont  ridge),  running  north  to  south, 
from  Viesly  to  Reumont,  and  the  stalk  (the  Le  Cateau 
position  or  Caudry  ridge)  east  to  west  from  Le  Cateau  to 
Crevecoeur.  The  reverse  or  south  side  of  the  Caudry 
ridge  drops  sharply  to  the  Warnelle  stream,  with  higher 
undulating  country  behind  it,  dotted  with  villages  and 
woods,  admirably  suited  to  cover  a  retirement.  The  front 
or  north  side  is  broken  by  a  succession  of  long  spurs  running 
northwards  ;  the  western  end  drops  to  the  Schelde  Canal. 

Except  for  the  Selle  river  and  the  Canal  with  its  accom- 
panying stream,  the  country  was  free  for  the  movement 
of  troops  of  all  arms,  and,  from  its  open  character,  generally 
suited  to  defensive  action,  though  there  were  numerous 
small  valleys  up  which  enterprising  and  well-trained 
infantry  could  approach  unseen.  Beetroots  and  clover 
covered  part  of  the  ground,  but  the  other  crops  had  mostly 
been  cut  and  partly  harvested.  Here  and  there  were 
lines  of  cattle,  picketed  Flanders  fashion,  in  the  forage 
patches.  Crops  had  been  held  so  sacred  at  British 
manoeuvres  that  there  was  occasionally  hesitation  before 
troops,  particularly  mounted  troops,  would  move  across 


The  town  of  Le  Cateau  on  the  right  of  the  line  of  the  26  Aug. 
II.  Corps  was  at  4.30  A.M.  still  full  of  British  transport,  1914- 
though  the  long  columns,  after  protracted  delay  owing 
to  the  passage  of  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  across 
them,  had  for  hours  been  pushing  south-westwards  along 
the  Roman  Road.  The  19th  Infantry  Brigade,  placed 
under  the  II.  Corps  by  G.H.Q.  orders  of  the  previous  night, 
had  not  yet  received  any  message  postponing  the  retreat, 
as  its  headquarters  could  not  be  found  in  the  dark ;  it 
was  delayed  nearly  two  hours  in  starting  by  the  conges- 
tion in  the  streets,  and  had  hardly  got  clear — being  the 
last  troops  to  leave  the  town — when  shortly  after  6  A.M. 
the  first  German  scouts  made  their  appearance  in  Le 
Cateau.  There  was  some  firing,  but  they  were  easily  Map  11. 
kept  at  a  distance,  and  the  brigade  eventually  pursued 
its  march  to  Reumont  with  hardly  a  casualty.  The  I/Duke 
of  Cornwall's  Light  Infantry  and  half  of  the  I/East  Surrey 
(14th  Infantry  Brigade),  which  had  bivouacked  on  the 
heights  to  the  east  of  Le  Cateau,  and  had  likewise  received 
no  orders  to  stand  fast,  were  at  this  time  formed  up  in 
column  of  route  by  the  railway  bridge  near  the  south- 
eastern corner  of  the  town,  facing  west  and  ready  to  march 
off  at  6.30  A.M.  The  remainder  of  the  14th  Infantry 
Brigade  had  meanwhile  occupied  a  position  immediately 
to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau  :  the  Suffolks  across  the  centre 
of  the  spur — which  for  convenience  may  be  called  the 
Montay  Spur — which  runs  from  the  Reumont  ridge  north- 
eastward to  Montay,  and  the  other  one  and  a  half  battalions 
south  of  them.  Next  to  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade, 
but  separated  from  it  by  a  small  valley  between  spurs, 
came  the  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry  of  the  13th  Infantry 
Brigade,  with  the  XV.  Brigade  R.F.A.  and  the  37th 
Howitzer  Battery  in  close  support  on  the  right,  and  the 
XXVIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  in  close  support  on  the  left. 
West  of  the  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry,  the  Scottish 
Borderers  of  the  same  brigade  occupied  the  next  ridge  of 
rising  ground  ;  and  west  of  them  again,  the  15th  Infantry 
Brigade  prolonged  the  line  to  the  road  that  leads  from 
Troisvilles  to  Inchy,  with  the  XXVII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  in 
rear  of  it  to  the  east  and  south-east  of  Troisvilles.  Of 
the  rest  of  the  artillery  of  the  5th  Division,  the  61st 
Howitzer  Battery  and  108th  Heavy  Battery  took  up 
positions  of  observation  about  a  mile  to  the  north  of 
Reumont,  while  the  65th  Howitzer  Battery  unlimbered 
to  the  south-west  of  Troisvilles.  In  reserve  near  Reumont 

144  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

was  the   19th  Infantry  Brigade,  as  orders  to  halt  there 
reached  it  soon  after  it  left  Le  Cateau. 

The  battalions  of  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade  which  lay 
west  of  Le  Cateau  did  not  receive  their  counter-orders  to 
stand  fast  until  about  6  A.M.,  and  those  to  the  east  of  the 
town  never  received  them  at  all.  Hence  the  5th  Division 
was  in  a  manner  surprised,  and  compelled  to  accept  battle 
in  positions  which  were  being  held  with  a  view  to  slipping 
away  under  cover  of  rear  guards.  The  Suffolks  in  particu- 
lar, who  lay  immediately  to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau,  were 
badly  placed  for  a  general  action  :  there  was  much  dead 
ground  on  every  side  ;  the  field  of  fire  was  for  the  most 
part  limited  and  could  nowhere  be  called  good ;  and 
small  valleys  and  sunken  roads  at  sundry  points  gave 
hostile  infantry  every  opportunity  of  concealing  their 
approach.  The  battalion,  in  common  with  the  other 
troops  of  the  5th  Division,  made  shift  to  throw  up  such 
entrenchments  as  it  could  with  its  "  grubbers,"  no  better 
tools  being  obtainable.  The  XXVII.  R.F.A.  had  time 
to  dig  in  its  batteries  ;  but  the  XV.  Brigade  for  the  most 
part  had  to  be  content  to  mask  its  guns  with  corn-sheaves. 

But  the  serious  difficulties  in  which  the  5th  Division 
became  involved  during  the  action  of  the  26th  August 
arose  not  so  much  from  the  lack  of  preparation  of  the 
position,  as  from  its  belief  that  the  I.  Corps  would  be  on 
its  right,  and  hold  the  high  ground  east  of  Le  Cateau, 
whence  an  enemy  could  rake  a  considerable  portion  of 
the  line.  The  risk  that  this  ground  would  fall  into  German 
hands  had  to  be  accepted  by  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien 
when,  late  indeed  but  as  early  as  in  the  circumstances 
it  was  possible  to  come  to  a  decision,  he  resolved  to  stand 
and  fight. 

Passing  now  to  the  dispositions  of  the  3rd  Division, 
the  9th  Infantry  Brigade  took  up  the  line  from  Troisvilles 
westward  to  Audencourt.  The  brigadier,  as  has  been 
told,  had  received  timely  notice  of  Sir  Horace  Smith- 
Dorrien's  intentions  and,  bringing  his  battalions  early  into 
position,  enabled  them  to  improve  some  mathematically 
straight  trenches  which  had  been  hastily  begun  by  French 
civilians,  and  to  dig  themselves  fair  shelter.  The  XXIII. 
Brigade  R.F.A.  was  in  close  support  on  the  reverse  side 
of  the  ridge,  with  two  sections  dug  in  on  the  forward 
slope,  one  of  the  107th  Battery  to  the  right  front,  and 
one  of  the  108th  Battery  on  the  left  rear  of  the  Lincoln- 
shire, the  left  of  the  brigade.  About  a  thousand  yards 


to  the   south  of  these   batteries   was  the  65th  Howitzer  26  Aug. 
Battery,  and  about  five   hundred   yards  to   the   west  of   1914« 
them  the  48th  Heavy  Battery. 

Next  on  the  left  of  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade  stood  the 
8th  Infantry  Brigade,  holding  Audencourt  and  the  ground 
thence  westward  to  Caudry.  This  brigade  also  was 
partly  dug  in,  having  taken  in  hand  at  dawn  the  work  of 
improving  and  extending  some  trenches  made  by  French 

The  7th  Infantry  Brigade  occupied  Caudry  and  its 
vicinity.  The  right  of  the  position  along  the  ridge  to 
the  north-east  of  the  town  was  held  by  the  I/ Wiltshire  ; 
an  enclosure  near  Point  129,  just  north  of  the  town,  by 
the  2/South  Lancashire  and  the  56th  Field  Co.  R.E. ; 
and  the  remainder  of  the  line  along  the  north  and  north- 
western outskirts  by  the  3/ Worcestershire.  The  battalions 
of  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade  were  very  weak,  many  men 
having  lost  their  way  in  the  dark  during  the  retirement 
from  Solesmes.  The  Irish  Rifles,  indeed,  had  not  yet 
rejoined,  being  still  at  Maurois  with  the  41st  Battery. 
A  divisional  reserve  was  formed  of  men  collected  from 
First  Line  Transport,  Signal  Sections,  etc. 

Of  the  rest  of  the  3rd  Divisional  Artillery,  the  XL. 
Brigade  R.F.A.  was  in  readiness  south-west  of  Auden- 
court ;  two  batteries  of  the  XLII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  at  the 
north-eastern  corner  of  Caudry  ;  a  section  of  I  Battery 
R.H.A.  at  the  north-western  corner ;  and  the  XXX. 
Howitzer  Brigade  just  south  of  the  buildings  of  Caudry 
facing  north-west.  Speaking  generally,  the  3rd  Division 
was  better  posted  and  more  fully  prepared  for  action  than 
either  the  5th  Division  on  its  right  or  the  4th  on  its 
left,  having  received  earlier  warning  of  what  was  expected 
of  it. 

Between  Caudry  and  Beauvois  there  was  a  gap ;  this, 
however,  was  of  no  importance,  since  it  could  be  swept 
by  crossfire  from  the  two  villages ;  and  at  Bea.uvois 
itself  the  rear  guard  of  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade  was 
still  bickering  with  the  advanced  parties  of  the  enemy. 
Its  main  body,  as  already  described,  was  aligned  from  the 
east  of  the  "  Quarry  "  south-west  towards  the  Warnelle 
ravine  ;  and  by  this  time  the  King's  Own  had  crossed 
the  ravine  from  Haucourt,  and  was  halted  in  mass  near 
the  cross  roads  five  hundred  yards  north-east  of  Longsart, 
thus  filling  the  gap  between  the  llth  and  12th  Infantry 

VOL.  I  L 

146  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

In  reserve  to  General  Smith-Dorrien's  force  there  were 
nominally  the  Cavalry  Division  and  the  19th  Infantry 
Brigade  ;  orders  were  issued  for  the  2nd  and  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigades  to  proceed  to  Bazuel  and  Mazinghien  (2 
miles  east  by  south  and  4  miles  south-east  of  Le  Cateau 
respectively),  to  guard  the  right  flank ;  whilst  the  1st 
Cavalry  Brigade  was  to  take  post  at  Escaufourt,  about 
four  miles  south-west  of  Le  Cateau.  The  4th  Cavalry 
Brigade,  which  had  moved  at  midnight  to  Inchy,  fell 
back  to  Ligny  at  dawn.  But  the  orders  to  the  cavalry 
were  for  the  most  part  very  difficult  to  execute,  for  only 
the  3rd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  were  more  or  less  com- 
plete and  concentrated,  and  they  were  at  opposite  ends 
of  the  line.  As  it  happened,  however,  part  of  the  1st  and 
2nd  Cavalry  Brigades,  as  well  as  the  3rd  Brigade,  were 
in  the  vicinity  of  Le  Cateau  and  thus  available  to  cover 
the  gap  between  the  I.  and  II.  Corps. 

The  situation  as  it  appeared  to  the  Germans  at  night 
is  fully  disclosed  by  von  Kluck's  operation  orders  issued 
at  11.50  P.M.  on  the  25th  August.  In  them  he  ordered 
"  the  continuation  of  the  pursuit  of  the  beaten  enemy  " 
in  a  general  south-westerly  direction  : — His  right,  the  //. 
Corps,  via  Cambrai  on  Bapaume ;  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps 
(then  at  Valenciennes)  starting  early,  via  Vendegies  to 
Cattenieres  ;  the  IV.  Corps  via  Caudry  and  Montay  to 
Vendhuille ;  the  ///.  Corps  via  Le  Cateau  to  Maretz. 
The  IX.  Corps  was  still  in  rear  observing  the  western 
front  of  Maubeuge  and  protecting  the  Lines  of  Communi- 
cation against  sorties  from  it ;  it  was  to  send  any  troops 
it  could  spare  after  the  ///.  Corps.  Orders  for  the  three 
cavalry  divisions  of  von  der  Marwitz's  Corps  are  not  given, 
but  von  Kluck's  narrative  states  that  in  the  early  morning 
they  attacked  via  Wambaix — Beauvois — Quievy,1  drove 
the  enemy  south  and  held  him  until  the  heads  of  the  corps 
appeared.  It  was  then  his  intention  to  envelop  the 
British  Force  on  both  flanks.  From  von  Kluck's  own 
account,  he  seems  to  have  been  under  a  complete  mis- 
conception of  the  situation  in  the  morning.  He  thought, 
when  it  was  found  that  the  British  were  not  retiring, 
that  they  were  holding  a  more  or  less  north  and  south 

1  The  orders  in  "  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  p.  55,  are  for  the  11.  Cavalry 
Corps  to  move  due  south  against  the  great  Roman  Road  : 

2nd  Cavalry  Division,  with  4th  and  7th  Jdger,  via  Carnieres — Esnes 

(practically  Wambaix). 

9th  Cavalry  Division,  with  3rd,  9th  and  10th  Jdger,  via  Beauvois. 
4th  Cavalry  Division,  via  Caudry  (due  south  of  Quievy). 


position  (he  ordered  "  the  IV.  Corps  to  envelop  the  northern ;  26  Aug. 
the  ///.  Corps  the  southern  flank  of  the  position  "),  and  1914« 
were  trying  "  to  draw  off  in  a  westerly  direction  "  ;  and 
he  lost  sight  of  the  I.  Corps  altogether.  Possibly,  the 
extension  of  the  British  front  westwards  by  the  newly 
arrived  4th  Division  helped  to  mislead  him.  Further, 
that  front  at  nightfall  was  established  by  contact  on  the 
line  Landrecies  —  Solesmes  facing  north  -  east ;  and  the 
move  of  the  4th  Division  from  Solesmes  during  the  night, 
practically  in  contact  with  the  Germans,  was  south-west. 
Possibly  he  thought  the  whole  force  was  following  the 
same  direction.  This,  of  course,  fitted  in  with  his  pre- 
conceived idea  that  the  British  Expeditionary  Force  was 
based  on  Ostend,  Dunkirk  and  Calais. 

In  the  German  Second  Army,  von  Biilow  also  issued 
operation  orders  that  "  on  the  26th  the  pursuit  of  the 
"  beaten  enemy  should  be  continued  in  a  south-westerly 
"  direction  with  the  greatest  possible  energy."  As  he  had 
to  leave  the  VII.  Corps  to  observe  the  eastern  side  of 
Maubeuge,  the  X.  Reserve  Corps  now  became  his  right. 
This  corps  only  reached  Marbaix  on  the  26th  and  did 
not  get  into  contact  with  the  British  until  it  struck  the 
rear  guard  of  the  I.  Corps  (the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade)  at 
Etreux  on  the  27th. 

The  Eight  of  the  Line. 

Very  soon  after  6  A.M.,  while  the  morning  mist  was  still  Map  11. 
thick,  the  German  batteries  opened  fire  for  the  first  time 
from  the  vicinity  of  Forest  (3  miles  N.N.E.  of  Le  Cateau)1 
upon  the  troops  immediately  west  of  Le  Cateau,  thereby 
putting  a  stop  to  entrenching  except  so  far  as  it  could  be 
carried  on  by  the  men  lying  down,  with  their  "  grubbers." 
The  Duke  of  Cornwall's  Light  Infantry  and  two  companies 
of  the  East  Surreys  were,  as  has  been  told,  waiting  in 
column  of  route  in  Le  Cateau,  by  the  railway  bridge  in 
the  Faubourg  de  Landrecies  when,  at  6.30  A.M.,  exactly 
the  time  that  they  should  have  moved  off,  heavy  rifle  fire 
was  opened  upon  them  from  the  windows  of  the  neigh- 
bouring houses.  Several  men  fell;  but  the  detachment, 
under  the  covering  fire  of  the  Signal  Section  and  some  of 

1  These  would  appear  to  have  been  IV.  Corps  batteries,  but  possibly 
there  were  some  III.  Corps  ones. 

148  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

the  headquarters  of  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade,  were 
rapidly  led  back  through  a  succession  of  wire  fences  to 
the  high  ground  above  the  south-eastern  corner  of  Le 
Cateau.  Here  the  six  companies  formed  a  firing  line 
north  and  south  athwart  the  cross  roads  just  to  the  south 
of  the  Faubourg  de  France.  How  the  Germans  had  con- 
trived to  reach  the  south-eastern  outskirts  of  Le  Cateau 
without  being  seen,  is  unknown  ; 1  but  the  fact  remains 
that,  when  the  action  opened,  the  Germans  were  in  the 
town  on  the  flank  of  the  II.  Corps,  with  every  prospect 
of  cutting  off  the  detachment  of  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade 
which  lay  on  the  east  of  the  town,  and  of  pouring  through 
the  gap  between  the  I.  and  II.  Corps.  They  lost  no  time, 
in  fact,  in  following  up  that  detachment,  which,  however, 
under  cover  of  a  counter-attack  by  the  half-battalion  of 
the  East  Surreys,  fell  back  south-east  by  successive  com- 
panies along  the  road  towards  Bazuel,  repelling  simul- 
taneous attacks  against  its  front  and  its  right  flank.  A 
mile  from  Bazuel,  however,  portions  of  the  1st  Cavalry 
Brigade,  followed  by  the  3rd  with  D  Battery,  came  to  its 
help  ;  and  with  their  support  the  Cornwall  Light  Infantry 
and  East  Surreys  began  to  move  westward  to  rejoin  their 
brigade  soon  after  8  A.M.  The  Germans,  favoured  by  the 
mist,  had  by  this  time  worked  up  the  valley  of  the  Selle 
southward  from  Le  Cateau,  for  about  a  mile,  with  no 
very  clear  idea,  probably,  of  what  was  going  forward, 
when  they  were  caught  by  this  counter-attack  on  their 
eastern  flank,  and  for  a  time  their  progress  seems  to  have 
been  arrested. 

Meanwhile  fresh  German  batteries  had  opened  fire 
from  a  concealed  position  near  Rambourlieux  Farm  (2 
miles  W.N.W.  of  Le  Cateau)  against  the  troops  between 
Le  Cateau  and  the  Roman  Road,  now  the  right  of  the 
British  line,  and  practically  enfiladed  the  whole  of  them 
with  most  destructive  effect.  The  British  guns  replied 
as  well  as  they  could  with  nothing  but  the  flashes  to 
guide  them,  for,  though  the  German  aeroplanes  were 
active  in  this  quarter  of  the  field,  British  machines  were 
not  employed  in  aid  of  the  artillery.  The  infantry,  having 
no  targets  as  yet,  was  obliged  to  endure  the  bombardment 
passively,  though  comparatively  early  in  the  day — that 
is  to  say,  soon  after  8  A.M. — German  skirmishers  climbed 

1  They  had  not  far  to  come,  as  Bousies  and  villages  round  it,  only 
four  miles  from  Le  Cateau,  were  occupied  by  part  of  the  German  7th 
Division  on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th ;  it  marched  off  at  5  A.M.  (Lohrisch). 


to  Point  150  on  the  summit  of  the  Montay  Spur,  and  26  Aug. 
began  firing  at  the  British  gunners.  Upon  these,  and  also  1914- 
upon  a  concealed  German  machine  gun  on  the  Cambrai 
road  the  left  company  of  the  Suffolks  opened  fire  ;  but 
there  was  some  doubt  as  to  the  situation,  for  it  never 
occurred  to  any  of  the  officers  that  the  high  ground  im- 
mediately to  the  east  and  west  of  Le  Cateau  would  be 
left  open  to  free  occupation  by  the  enemy.  Of  the  fight 
that  was  going  forward  in  the  valley  of  the  Selle  they 
could  see  nothing  nor,  in  the  roar  of  the  battle,  hear 
anything  either. 

The  Duke  of  Cornwall's  L.I.  and  the  East  Surreys 
were,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  pressing  slowly  but  steadily 
forward  in  spite  of  considerable  opposition ;  and  two 
companies  of  the  former  became  separated  from  the  rest 
of  the  detachment,  which  was  advancing  westward,  and 
turned  to  the  south-west  upon  St.  Benin.  Some  confusion 
was  caused  in  the  advance  by  the  presence  of  Germans 
dressed  in  what  appeared  to  be  khaki,  which  more  than 
once  misled  the  British  as  to  the  action  they  should  take 
in  order  to  rejoin  their  division.  However,  D  Battery 
and  the  southern  half -battalion  of  the  Cornwall  L.I.  suc- 
ceeded in  enfilading  the  German  troops  in  the  valley,  and 
the  enemy  withdrew  to  the  eastward,  to  all  appearances 
pretty  severely  punished.  The  greater  number  of  the 
Cornwall  L.I.  and  East  Surreys  then  moved  south-west 
on  Escaufourt,  though  one  detachment,  while  still  500 
yards  short  of  St.  Benin,  turned  westward,  and  made  for 
Reumont,  where  5th  Divisional  Headquarters  were  estab- 
lished. The  bulk  of  the  Cornwall  L.I.  arrived  at  Escau- 
fourt between  11  A.M.  and  noon,  and  found  that  they  had 
cut  their  way  through  the  Germans  at  the  comparatively 
small  cost  of  two  hundred  casualties,  and  this  number 
in  the  course  of  the  following  days  was  reduced  to  one- 
half  by  the  return  of  missing  men.  The  half-battalion 
of  the  East  Surreys  made  its  way  to  Maurois,  beyond 
Reumont  and  the  1st  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  retired 
with  great  deliberation  due  south  up  the  valley  towards 
St.  Soupplet.  The  first  turning  movement  of  the  Germans 
on  the  eastern  flank — attempted,  it  is  true,  in  no  great 
strength — had  thus  been  foiled. 

During  this  period,  however,  the  troubles  of  the  troops 
immediately  to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau  were  increasing. 
About  10  A.M.  the  Germans  brought  guns  up  to  the  summit 
of  the  heights  east  of  the  town,  and  the  devoted  batteries 

150  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

and  battalions  of  the  British  5th  Division  on  the  high 
ground  between  the  town  and  the  Roman  Road,  were 
now  enfiladed  from  both  flanks.  The  llth  Battery  man- 
handled two  guns  round  to  the  east  and  replied  effectively 
to  the  German  fire  ;  but  the  concentration  of  a  superior 
number  of  German  guns,  probably  the  artillery  of  the  5th 
and  7th  Divisions,  upon  the  exposed  batteries  of  the  XV. 
and  XXVIII.  Brigades  R.F.A.  caused  considerable  losses ; 
salvos  of  shells  crashed  down  on  gun  after  gun  in  suc- 
cession, but  the  gunners  stood  to  their  work,  and  the  supply 
of  ammunition  never  failed.  The  Suffolks  and  Yorkshire 
Light  Infantry,  the  front  line  of  the  14th  and  13th  Infantry 
Brigades,  were  also  assailed  by  an  unceasing  storm  of 
shrapnel  and  high-explosive  shell,  but  vied  with  the 
artillery  in  steadiness.  At  9.45  A.M.  the  Argyll  and 
Sutherland  Highlanders,  of  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade, 
who  had  been  ordered  forward  from  Reumont,  arrived  on 
the  right  rear  of  the  Suffolks;  two  companies  dug  them- 
selves such  cover  as  they  were  able  with  their  "  grubbers  " 
on  the  ridge,  while  the  rest  remained  in  the  hollow  to 
the  west  of  them.  About  10  A.M.  the  firing  line  at  last 
had  a  target,  for  German  battalions  began  to  advance 
in  thick  masses  along  a  front  of  over  two  miles  from  the 
valley  of  the  Selle  to  Rambourlieux  Farm.1  The  llth 
Battery,  man -handling  a  second  section  round  to  the 
right,  fired  upon  them  in  the  valley  at  pointblank  range 
with  great  execution.  Before  long,  every  officer  of  this 
battery  had  fallen,  and  so  many  men  that  only  enough 
were  left  to  work  a  single  gun.  But  that  single  gun  never 
ceased  firing  ;  and  the  other  batteries,  nearly  all  of  which 
had  suffered  heavily,  showed  the  like  indomitable  spirit. 
From  Reumont  also  the  108th  Heavy  Battery  burst  its 
sixty-pounder  shells  among  the  hostile  infantry  with 
beautiful  precision,  tearing  great  gaps  in  their  swarming 
ranks  and  strewing  the  ground  with  killed  and  wounded. 

But  losses  did  not  stop  the  German  infantry  of  1914. 
The  gaps  were  instantly  filled,  and  the  advance  of  the 
enemy  in  the  valley,  though  retarded,  was  not  brought 
to  a  standstill.  Parties  reached  a  little  copse  upon  Montay 
Spur,  and  strove  to  enfilade  the  Suffolks  from  the  north, 
but  they  were  checked  mainly  by  a  machine  gun  of  the  York- 

1  This  was,  no  doubt,  the  attack  of  the  enemy  7th  Division,  with  the 
14th  Infantry  Brigade  on  both  sides  of  the  Forest — Le  Cateau  road  and 
13th  Infantry  Brigade  on  both  sides  of  the  Forest — Montay  road  (see 


shire  Light  Infantry  posted  on  the  Roman  Road.  Further  26  Aug. 
to  the  west,  the  Germans  made  less  progress.  From  the  1914- 
region  of  Rambourlieux  Farm,  profiting  by  past  experience, 
they  came  forward  in  small  bodies,  at  wide  intervals,  and 
taking  cover  behind  the  corn-stooks  that  covered  the 
fields  ;  but,  though  they  attacked  again  and  again,  they 
were  driven  back  by  the  shells  of  the  artillery.  In  the 
zone  allotted  to  the  37th  and  52nd  Batteries  and  the 
XXVIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  the  Germans  came  on  in  close 
formation,  and  suffered  very  heavily.  The  first  target 
of  the  122nd  Battery  was  a  platoon  in  line,  with  the  men 
shoulder  to  shoulder,  which  emerged  from  a  fold  in  the 
ground.  The  battery  commander  gave  the  order  "  one 
round  gun  fire,"  and  every  man  of  the  Germans  fell.  At 
every  subsequent  effort  of  the  enemy  in  this  direction, 
much  the  same  scene  was  repeated  and  each  gathering 
line  of  Germans  was  laid  low. 

Nevertheless,  though  the  machine  gun  of  the  Yorkshire 
Light  Infantry  checked  every  attempt  of  the  enemy  to 
approach  the  Suffolks  in  force,  it  was  possible  for  small 
parties  of  Germans  to  creep  up  into  a  cutting  on  the 
Cambrai  road  on  their  flank,  and  to  enfilade  them  both 
with  rifles  and  machine  guns.  Every  attempt  of  these 
parties  to  build  up  a  firing  line  in  advance  of  the  cutting 
was,  however,  foiled  by  the  steady  marksmanship  of  the 
Suffolks  and  by  the  shells  of  the  52nd  Battery.  The 
left  company  of  this  battalion  had  besides  a  very  fair 
field  of  fire  over  the  ground  to  the  north-east,  and  forbade 
any  hostile  progress  in  that  quarter.  But  the  German 
machine  guns  could  be  neither  discovered  nor  silenced ; 
and  the  Suffolks,  except  on  their  extreme  left,  which  was 
protected  by  an  artificial  bank,  were  falling  fast  under 
their  fire.  Colonel  James  of  the  Manchesters  had  already 
pushed  forward  one  company  and  a  machine  gun  to  the 
right  rear  of  the  Suffolks,  prolonging  their  line  to  the 
south  ;  and,  shortly  after  11  A.M.,  judging  the  position 
to  be  critical,  and  being  unable  to  find  the  brigadier,  he 
ordered  two  more  companies  of  his  battalion  to  advance 
and  reinforce  the  Suffolks.  At  the  same  time,  he  called 
upon  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders  and  1 /Middle- 
sex, of  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade,  to  support  him. 

The  two  companies  of  the  Manchesters  accordingly 
moved  forward  under  a  terrible  fire  of  artillery,  rifles  and 
machine  guns,  but,  in  spite  of  more  than  one  check,  suc- 
ceeded in  reaching  the  trenches  of  the  Suffolks.  The  left 

152  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

company  seems  to  have  suffered  less  than  the  other,  and 
on  reaching  the  left  company  of  the  Suffolks  found  that 
it  was  not  needed.  The  remainder,  who  bore  more  to 
the  right,  were  thrown  back  more  than  once  ;  and  eventu- 
ally only  a  portion  reached  the  right  centre  of  the  firing 
line.  Ammunition  for  the  Suffolks'  machine  guns  began 
to  fail  at  this  point ;  and  it  was  vital  to  replenish  it  before 
the  enemy  could  further  develop  his  attack  from  the  east. 
Major  Doughty,  who  had  succeeded  to  the  command  of 
the  battalion  upon  the  fall  of  Colonel  Brett  early  in  the 
day,  with  a  small  party  managed  to  bring  up  a  few 
bandoliers,  but  he  fell  desperately  wounded  at  the  moment 
of  his  arrival.  Meanwhile,  two  half  -  companies  of  the 
Highlanders  from  the  low  ground,  facing  once  again  a 
storm  of  fire,  rushed  through  the  wreck  of  the  llth  Battery 
into  the  right  section  of  the  trenches  of  the  Suffolks  and, 
though  at  heavy  loss,  brought  them  at  least  some  assistance. 
It  was  now  noon.  Two  German  heavy  guns  1  now  reached 
the  summit  of  the  Montay  Spur  and  opened  fire  at  close 
range.  The  last  gun  of  the  llth  Battery  was  silenced  ; 
and  the  Suffolks,  together  with  their  reinforcement  of 
Highlanders,  were  in  a  worse  plight  than  ever.  Neverthe- 
less, after  nearly  six  hours  of  incessant  and  overwhelming 
fire,  the  right  of  the  British  line,  which  rested  on  Le  Cateau, 
still  stood  firm.  The  German  infantry  was  steadily 
increasing  in  numbers  on  their  front  and,  despite  all  efforts, 
was  drawing  steadily  nearer.  Their  right  flank  was  open ; 
they  were  searched  with  fire  from  front  and  right  and  left ; 
and  strong  columns,  betokening  the  approach  of  the 
German  III.  Corps,  were  closing  in  upon  the  right  flank. 
It  mattered  not :  they  had  been  ordered  to  stand.  The 
I.  Corps,  for  whose  coming  they  waited,  might  be  late, 
as  Bliicher  had  been  at  Waterloo  ;  but,  until  it  should 
come,  there  must  be  no  giving  way.  Nor  did  they  yield 
the  ground  until  the  divisional  orders  for  retirement 
reached  them  some  hours  later. 

The  Eight  Centre  of  the  Line. 

Map  11.  On  the  left  of  the  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry,  the 
2/Scottish  Borderers  (13th  Infantry  Brigade)  and  the 
Bedfords  and  Dorsets  (15th  Infantry  Brigade)  were  for 
the  present  hardly  engaged.  They  saw  nothing  of  the 

1  Probably  4-2-inch  field  howitzers  with  telescope  trails,  enabling  them 
to  be  used  for  direct  fire. 


enemy  but  distant  columns  advancing  upon  Inchy  from  26  Aug. 
the  north-east,  which  were  observed  to  be  caught  by  1914« 
shell  fire  and  forced  to  deploy.  With  the  9th  Infantry 
Brigade,  on  the  left  again,  the  situation  was  nearly  similar. 
The  German  guns l  opened  upon  it  soon  after  6  A.M. 
before  the  men  had  completed  the  trenches  begun  over- 
night, but  with  so  little  effect  that  they  were  able  to  con- 
tinue digging  themselves  in  and,  thus  sheltered,  suffered 
trifling  loss.  There  was  no  sign  of  any  infantry  attack — 
no  rifle  fire,  indeed,  except  that  of  a  few  skirmishers  with 
here  and  there  a  machine  gun — and  it  was  pretty  evident 
that  the  enemy  had  no  idea  for  the  present  of  any  attack 
upon  this  portion  of  the  line.  On  the  other  hand,  German 
troops,2  working  up  the  valley  from  Bethencourt  and  from 
the  wood  just  to  the  east  of  it  towards  Inchy,  were  heavily 
shelled  by  the  guns  of  the  6th  Battery  and  of  the  XXIII. 
Brigade  R.F.A.  Some  small  parties,  nevertheless,  con- 
trived to  make  their  way  into  Beaumont  and  Inchy,  only 
to  be  greeted  there  by  the  lyddite  shells  of  the  65th 
Howitzer  Battery  ;  and  all  their  efforts  to  build  up  a 
firing  line  in  front  of  the  twin  villages  were  foiled  by  the 
deadly  marksmanship  of  the  British. 

Against  the  line  of  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade  around 
Audencourt  the  German  guns  came  into  action  rather  later 
than  against  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade,  but  the  German 
infantry  showed  itself  almost  immediately  afterwards, 
trickling  down  in  thin  lines  towards  the  Cambrai.  road, 
with  its  machine  guns  clearly  visible.  Its  advance  was, 
however,  cautious,  for  three  British  platoons  which  had 
been  pushed  out  to  the  north  of  the  Cambrai  road  were 
able  to  rejoin  the  brigade  without  being  seriously  pressed  ; 
and  it  was  not  until  about  9  A.M.  that  first  the  4/Middlesex 
to  the  east  of  Audencourt,  and  later  the  machine  guns  of 
the  Royal  Scots,  in  the  country  road  just  to  the  north  of 
it,  opened  fire  upon  parties  of  Germans  who  had  crossed 
the  Cambrai  road.  Even  then  the  engagement  in  this 
quarter  throughout  the  forenoon  was  no  more  than  desul- 
tory. The  headquarters  of  the  brigade  and  the  whole  of 
its  transport  were  in  Audencourt  itself,  and  there  seemed 
no  immediate  menace  to  their  security.  Masses  of  German 
infantry  were  indeed  assembling  upon  the  Cambrai  road 
under  a  devastating  fire  from  the  British  artillery ;  but 
the  8th  and  9th  Infantry  Brigades  had  a  good  field  of  fire, 

1  Probably  of  the  IV.  Corps  from  near  Solesmes. 
2  The  4th  Cavalry  Division  ('•'  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  p.  63). 

154  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

and  there  was  little  temptation  to  the  enemy  to  waste 
strength  in  attacking  them,  when  immediately  to  their 
left  lay  Caudry,  forming  a  decided  salient  in  the  British 

Upon  Caudry  the  German  shells  fell  very  heavily  from 
an  early  hour  ;  and  bullets  were  whistling  down  the  streets 
even  before  the  fall  of  the  shells.  Up  to  6  A.M.  and  even 
later  the  units  of  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade  were  still  under 
the  impression  that  the  retreat  would  be  resumed  ;  but 
the  enemy's  movements  soon  banished  all  idea  of  this,  for 
about  7  A.M.  the  German  riflemen  J  moved  against  both 
flanks  of  the  village  with  vigour,  pouring  a  very  heavy  fire 
in  particular  upon  the  Worcesters  on  the  left.  So  per- 
tinacious was  its  onset  that  reinforcements  were  sum- 
moned from  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade  ;  and  about  8.30 
A.M.  two  weak  companies  of  the  Royal  Irish  came  up  and 
took  post  in  a  railway  cutting  which  skirts  the  eastern 
flank  of  the  village.  Half  an  hour  later,  at  9  A.M.,  the  Irish 
Rifles  and  the  41st  Battery  ended  their  wanderings  of  the 
night  by  rejoining  the  brigade.2  The  battalion  entrenched 
itself  about  a  thousand  yards  south  of  Caudry  near  Tron- 
quoy,  while  the  guns  unlimbered  to  its  right  rear.  Until 
noon  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade  contained  the  Germans 
without  difficulty,  and  they  gained  little  or  no  ground  ;  it 
seemed  probable  that  here,  as  on  the  rest  of  the  British 
centre,  they  were  husbanding  their  strength  until  their 
main  effort  against  both  flanks  of  the  British  should  pro- 
duce its  effect. 

The  Left  Wing. 

Map  11.  On  the  left  wing  in  the  4th  Division  no  orders  had  been 
issued  for  the  retirement  to  be  continued  ;  those  sent  out 
on  the  previous  evening  to  occupy  the  Haucourt  position  3 
still  held  good  and  were  confirmed  as  soon  as  General 
Smith-Dorrien's  message  reached  Divisional  Headquarters 
at  5  A.M.  But,  as  on  the  right,  the  general  action  opened 
with  misfortune  for  the  British.  Until  6  A.M.,  or  there- 
abouts, the  rear  guard  of  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade  on 
the  right  of  the  division  continued  exchanging  shots  with 
the  enemy  to  the  north  of  Beauvois,  when  it  gradually 
withdrew,  the  1 /Rifle  Brigade  coming  in  last  of  all  and 

1  The  9th  Cavalry  Division  and  three  Jdger  battalions  ("  Deutsche 
Kavallerie,"  p.  59). 

2  See  p.  128.  3  See  p.  129. 


taking  position  in  the  hollow  road  which  runs  southward  26  Aug. 
from  Beauvois  to  Ligny.  A  platoon  of  Jdger,  which  was  ° 
imprudent  enough  to  advance  in  pursuit  through  Fontaine 
au  Pire,  was  annihilated  by  the  accurate  fire  of  a  detach- 
ment of  the  1 /Hampshire  ;  and  after  that  the  enemy  made 
no  further  attempt  to  follow  up  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade.1 
Meanwhile,  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade  was  resting  on  its 
position  on  the  left  of  the  llth  covering  Longsart  and 
Esnes.  French  cavalry  patrols,  as  has  been  told,  had  been 
understood  to  report  the  front  to  be  clear ;  and  the  4th 
Division  had  no  divisional  cavalry  or  cyclists  to  verify 
the  French  observations.  The  King's  Own  were  formed 
up  preparatory  to  entrenching.  Suddenly,  shortly  after 
6  A.M.,  two  French  troopers  riding  towards  Cattenieres 
were  seen  to  turn  and  gallop  at  the  top  of  their  speed  to  the 
south-west;  and  immediately  afterwards  a  devastating 
fire  of  machine  guns  swept  down  upon  the  King's  Own. 
Caught  in  close  formation,  the  hapless  battalion  was 
terribly  punished.  The  men  were  at  once  ordered  to  lie 
down  and  the  front  rank  of  each  platoon — all  that  could 
safely  use  their  rifles — opened  fire  at  about  eight  hundred 
yards  range  upon  the  German  machine  guns  with  imme- 
diate effect.  Five  minutes  later,  however,  two  or  three 
German  batteries  came  into  the  open  between  Wambaix 
and  Cattenieres  Railway  Station,  unlimbered,  and  speedily 
picking  up  the  range,  poured  upon  the  unlucky  King's  Own 
a  storm  of  shells,  which  thinned  their  already  depleted  ranks 
still  further.  Two  companies  of  the  Warwickshire  from 
the  reserve,  by  direction  of  a  staff  officer,  swarmed  up  the 
hill  to  extricate  them,  but  were  swept  back  upon  reaching 
the  crest  with  very  heavy  loss.  For  some  twenty  minutes 
this  storm  of  shells  burst  over  the  King's  Own,  after  which 
the  fire  of  guns  and  machine  guns  slackened,  and  the  sur- 
vivors of  the  battalion  moved  away  to  their  right  into  the 
shelter  of  a  country  lane,  running  east  and  west,  from 
which  they  opened  fire  with  such  effect  that  the  machine 
guns  were  smothered.  A  few  men  from  the  rear  of  the 
mass,  who  had  sought  shelter  in  the  ravine,  rallied  and 
rejoined  their  comrades  ;  and  the  King's  Own,  though 
reduced  by  some  four  hundred  casualties,  recovered  them- 
selves with  commendable  quickness. 

The  Germans  then  turned  their  fire  upon  portions  of 
the  right  wing  of  the  Lancashire  Fusiliers,  to  the  west  of 

1  This  enemy  was  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division,  with  two  Jager  battalions 
("  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  p.  55). 

156  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

the  King's  Own  ;  and  soon  German  mounted  men  came 
out  into  the  open,  only  to  give  place  to  a  considerable  body 
of  infantry  *  in  the  space  between  Wambaix  and  Catte- 
nieres.  The  Lancashire  Fusiliers  brought  their  machine 
guns  into  action ;  and,  though  one  of  these  became  jammed 
at  once,  the  other  did  good  execution.  But  the  enemy, 
having  far  greater  numbers  of  machine  guns — it  was  esti- 
mated that  they  had  twenty-three  in  this  quarter  of  the 
field  alone  at  this  time  2 — and  being  consequently  able  to 
use  them  with  greater  freedom,  now  crept  away  to  the  left 
flank  qf  the  Lancashire  Fusiliers,  and  enfiladed  them  with 
deadly  effect.  Two  companies  of  Inniskilling  Fusiliers  had 
already  come  up  from  Longsart  to  prolong  the  line  of  the 
Lancashire  Fusiliers,  one  upon  the  eastern  and  the  other 
upon  the  western  flank  ;  but  the  latter  was  at  once  en- 
gaged with  German  dismounted  cavalry.  There  were 
signs  also  of  the  development  of  a  hostile  attack  upon  the 
front  and  western  flank  of  Esnes,  where  the  two  remaining 
companies  of  the  Inniskilling  Fusiliers  were  already  dis- 
posed for  defence.  Against  them,  across  a  cornfield  that 
had  recently  been  cut,  advanced  the  7th  Jager,  in  open 
order,  apparently  without  any  suspicion  that  a  foe  was 
near.  As  soon  as  the  Inniskillings  opened  fire  the  Germans 
took  cover  behind  the  corn-stooks.  But  these  availed 
them  little,  and  after  a  time  they  ran  back,  leaving  forty- 
seven  dead  in  front  of  one  of  the  companies  when  its  com- 
mander in  the  lull  that  ensued  went  out  to  count  them. 
Thus  for  at  least  an  hour  and  a  half  the  12th  Infantry 
Brigade  held  its  own  against  the  &nd  Cavalry  Division 
and  two  Jager  battalions,  backed  by  artillery  and  numerous 
machine  guns. 

At  length  about  8.45  A.M.  the  German  progress  towards 
Wambaix,  round  the  left  flank  of  the  advanced  line,  had 
gone  so  far  that  a  retirement  seemed  to  Brigadier-General 
H.  M.  Wilson  imperative.  The  King's  Own  on  the  right 
were  the  first  to  be  sent  to  the  south  side  of  the  Warnelle 
Ravine  ;  and,  to  cover  this  movement,  two  companies  of 
the  Warwickshire  (10th  Infantry  Brigade)  were  ordered  to 
deliver  a  counter-attack  from  Haucourt  upon  the  ridge 
to  north  of  Longsart.  The  1 /Hampshire,  of  the  llth  In- 
fantry Brigade,  pushed  forward  two  platoons  to  protect  the 

1  Dismounted  men  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division  and  Jager  ("  Deutsche 
Kavallerie,"  p.  56). 

2  Twenty-one,  according  to  "  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  p.  56  : — the  guns 
of  the  4th  M.G.  Abteilung  and  two  Jager  battalions. 


Warwickshire's  right  flank,  seeing  which  a  German  battery  20  Aug. 
moved  up  and  unlimbered  close  to  the  railway  station  just  1914- 
south  of  Cattenieres.  The  Hampshire  men,  after  taking 
the  range,  opened  rapid  fire  at  a  thousand  and  fifty  yards, 
and  within  a  minute  the  battery  turned  and  galloped  away 
to  seek  shelter.  This  little  incident,  though  a  triumph  for 
British  musketry,  could  not  of  course  affect  the  main  issue. 
The  Warwickshire  again  reached  the  crest  of  the  ridge, 
and  so  gained  some  little  respite  for  the  King's  Own,  but 
they  suffered  severely  from  the  intense  fire  of  artillery  and 
machine  guns  and  were  forced  to  fall  back.  The  Lanca- 
shire Fusiliers  were  the  last  to  go — not  without  difficulty, 
for  the  Germans  were  within  three  hundred  yards  of  them ; 
they  rallied  on  the  ridge  to  the  south.  The  company  of 
the  Essex  on  their  left  had  retired  a  little  earlier ;  but  that 
of  the  Inniskillings  withdrew  with  the  Lancashire  Fusiliers, 
with  the  exception  of  the  left  platoon,  which  remained 
where  it  had  fought,  amid  a  circle  of  German  dead,  with 
not  a  single  man  unwounded.  The  withdrawal  of  the 
12th  Infantry  Brigade  across  the  valley  to  the  line  Ligny — 
Esnes  was  now  practically  accomplished. 

Meanwhile,  the  artillery  of  the  4th  Division  had  come 
into  action.  At  5.30  A.M.,  immediately  on  the  issue  of 
the  divisional  operation  orders  sent  out  on  receipt  of 
General  Smith-Dorrien's  message,  the  C.R.A.,  Brigadier- 
General  Milne,  ordered  his  brigades  to  reconnoitre  positions  : 
the  XXXVII.  (Howitzer)  and  XXXII.  Brigades  R.F.A.  to 
the  east  of  the  Iris  stream,  and  the  XIV.  and  XXIX.  to  the 
west  of  it ;  and  the  two  last  at  once  to  take  up  positions 
of  readiness  south-east  of  Esnes.  Shortly  afterwards,  the 
Divisional  Artillery  came  into  action  :  the  XXXII.  and 
XXIX.  Brigades  being  detailed  to  co-operate  with  the  llth 
Infantry  Brigade,  and  the  XIV.  with  the  12th  Infantry 

In  the  XXXII.,  the  27th  Battery  unlimbered  in  the 
open  to  the  west  of  Ligny,  the  134th  in  a  covered  position 
immediately  to  the  south-west  of  the  village,  with  the 
135th,  also  under  cover,  to  the  left  rear  of  the  27th.  The 
brigade  was  brought  into  action  as  rapidly  as  possible,  as 
the  llth  Infantry  Brigade  was  asking  for  artillery  support 
to  divert  from  it  some  of  the  German  gun  fire  to  which  it 
was  being  subjected. 

The  XXIX.  Brigade  took  up  its  position  south-east  of 
Haucourt.  Of  the  XIV.,  the  68th  Battery  came  into  action 
at  once  just  south-west  of  Haucourt,  the  39th  three-quarters 

158  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

of  a  mile  in  rear,  with  the  88th  in  the  valley-head  to  the 
east  of  St.  Aubert  Farm.  The  XXXVII.  (Howitzer)  un- 
limbered  in  the  Iris  valley,  but  did  not  open  fire  from  this 
position.  The  heavy  battery,  as  already  noted,  was  not 

The  fire  of  the  XIV.  Brigade  gained  time  for  the  12th 
Infantry  Brigade  to  rally ;  and  now  the  enemy  came  on, 
against  the  Lancashire  Fusiliers,  just  as  the  British  would 
have  desired, — in  masses,  firing  from  the  hip.1  A  burst  of 
rapid  fire  from  a  hastily  formed  line  now  speedily  brought 
the  German  advance  to  a  standstill,  and  the  Lancashire 
Fusiliers  took  advantage  of  the  lull  to  re-form  on  a  better 
position  a  short  distance  in  rear.  The  German  artillery 
now  redoubled  its  fire  ;  but  between  9.30  and  10  A.M.  the 
worst  of  the  surprise  attack  was  over,  and  Brigadier- 
General  H.  M.  Wilson  was  able  to  reconstitute  his  line 
along  a  front  from  Ligny  through  Haucourt  to  Esnes, 
already  occupied  by  part  of  the  10th  Infantry  Brigade. 
Brigadier  -  General  Haldane,  warned  to  secure  the  left 
flank  of  the  division,  withdrew  the  Seaforth  Highlanders 
to  a  ridge  south  and  somewhat  east  of  Esnes  ;  and  on 
this  ridge  the  new  position  of  the  two  brigades  assumed 
the  shape  almost  of  a  semicircle,  with  its  convex  side 
to  the  enemy.  The  units  were  very  much  mixed,  and 
it  is  impossible  to  say  precisely  where  some  of  them  were 

By  11  A.M.  the  firing  in  this  quarter  of  the  field  had  died 
down.  The  German  attack,  delivered  by  a  mixed  force  of 
cavalry,  Jager,  and  possibly  infantry,  with  a  very  powerful 
backing  of  artillery,  had  been  repulsed.  The  12th  In- 
fantry Brigade  had,  indeed,  been  forced  back  to  the  south 
side  of  the  Warnelle  Ravine ;  and  had  suffered  heavy 
casualties,  chiefly  owing  to  the  mishap  to  the  King's  Own. 
The  cavalry  and  the  cyclists  of  the  4th  Division,  had  they 
been  available,  would  undoubtedly  have  prevented  this 
surprise.  Even  as  things  were,  the  division  had  succeeded 
in  holding  its  own.  Moreover,  if  the  Germans  hoped  to 
pin  it  to  its  ground,  they  had  failed  ;  for  there  was  nothing 
now  to  prevent  the  4th  Division  from  continuing  its  retire- 
ment if  it  so  desired. 

During  this  period  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade  became 

isolated  to  a  certain  extent,  owing  to  the  retirement  of 

the  12th  Infantry  Brigade  on  its  left  and,  on  its  right, 

by  the  distance  which  separated  it  from  the  7th  Infantry 

1  These  troops  would  appear  to  have  been  dismounted  cavalry. 


Brigade  ;  but  it  held  on  with  the  greatest  tenacity.  Its  26  Aug. 
position,  it  may  be  recalled,  was  on  the  Caudry  plateau  1914» 
to  the  north  of  the  Warnelle  Ravine,  astride  the  "  Quarry  " 
knoll  and  extending  thence  south-west  across  the  railway 
to  the  edge  of  the  plateau,  its  general  front  being  towards 
the  north-west.  Before  part  of  this  front,  notably  on  the 
northern  slope  of  the  "  Quarry  "  knoll,  there  was  a  natural 
glacis,  but  further  to  the  west  the  field  of  fire  was  bad. 
The  enemy,  of  course,  avoided  the  glacis,  and  preferred 
to  work  round  both  flanks  of  the  brigade  and  attack  along 
the  line  of  the  railway  from  the  west  and  from  the  southern 
margin  of  Fontaine  au  Pire  from  the  north-east.  But 
though  the  Germans  brought  up  battery  after  battery, 
until  the  line  of  their  guns  extended  from  Wambaix  to 
the  north  of  Fontaine,1  and  swept  the  plateau  with  them 
and  with  machine  guns,  the  bombardment  was  not  fol- 
lowed by  the  advance  of  infantry  in  large  bodies.  After 
a  time  the  East  Lancashire  were  compelled  to  retire 
from  the  northern  slope  of  the  "  Quarry  "  to  a  sunken 
road  upon  the  southern  slope,  and  there  they  remained. 
The  Rifle  Brigade  and  two  companies  of  the  Somerset 
Light  Infantry,  on  the  right  of  the  East  Lancashire,  also 
held  their  ground,  though  heavily  shelled.  They  were 
rewarded  occasionally  by  the  sight  of  German  infantry 
striving  to  advance  over  the  stubble,  and  seized  every 
opportunity  of  cutting  them  down  by  rapid  fire. 

More  than  once  small  parties  of  the  llth  Infantry 
Brigade  were  forced  out  of  the  more  exposed  positions 
by  the  rain  of  shrapnel ;  but  they  always  reoccupied 
them,  or  were  replaced  by  supports  from  the  Warnelle 
Ravine.  Once  the  Hampshire,  on  the  left  of  the  line, 
essayed  a  counter-attack,  but  it  proved  too  costly.  The 
Germans  at  this  point  were  too  wise  to  quit  their  shelter ; 
they  had  an  overwhelming  force  of  artillery  ;  they  had 
brought  forward  their  machine  guns  with  their  wonted 
skill ;  and  they  might  reasonably  reckon  that  the  llth 
Infantry  Brigade  would  soon  retire  and  abandon  the 
position  without  bitter  fighting,  or,  better  still,  cling  to  it 
too  long,  and  be  surrounded.  Here,  therefore,  as  on  the 
remainder  of  the  left  wing,  there  was  a  deadlock. 

So  far  General  Smith -Dorrien  had  everywhere  held 
his  ground  successfully  for  some  six  hours  ;  and,  except 

1  The  artillery  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  was  sent  up  ahead  of  its 
infantry  and  no  doubt  had  come  into  action  to  assist  the  Cavalry  Corps 

160  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

immediately  to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau,  his  line  was  not 
only  unbroken  but  unshaken.  Even  there  the  enemy 
had  not  immediately  pressed  home  the  advantages  which 
he  had  gained ;  but  the  situation  was  rapidly  grow- 
ing more  serious.  To  that  critical  point  we  must  now 


THE    BATTLE    OF   LE    CATEAU,    26TH   AUGUST    (continued) 

NOON    TILL   5    P.M. 
(See  Sketch  3  ;  Maps  3,  10  &  11) 

The  Right  of  the  Line. 

SHORTLY  after  noon  the  situation  of  the  Suffolks  and  Sketch  3. 
of  the  batteries  supporting  them,  on  the  right  of  the  line,  MaPs  10 
became  serious  under  the  German  enfilade  fire.  The  108th 
Heavy  Battery,  in  action  well  behind  the  right  flank,  had 
silenced  one  troublesome  group  of  guns  near  Croix  ;  but, 
despite  this  good  piece  of  shooting,  the  hostile  artillery 
still  far  outmatched  the  British.1  Reserves  there  were 
none,  except  for  the  four  battalions  of  the  19th  Infantry 
Brigade  ;  and  of  these  the  Cameronians  and  Royal  Welch 
Fusiliers,  in  view  of  the  enemy's  movement  on  Ligny, 
had  at  10  A.M.  been  moved  away  westwards  to  Montigny, 
behind  the  left  flank  of  the  II.  Corps  ;  a  part  of  the  Argyll 
and  Sutherland  Highlanders  had  already  been  thrown 
into  the  fight ; 2  and  only  the  remainder  of  this  battalion, 
together  with  the  1 /Middlesex,  were  available  on  the  right. 
By  the  brigadier's  orders,  two  half-companies  of  the 
Argylls,  with  the  battalion  machine  guns,  were  now  sent 
up  into  the  lane  that  ran  over  the  ridge  to  the  right  rear 
of  the  Suffolks  ;  and  the  1 /Middlesex  moved  forward  into 
position  upon  the  right  of  the  Highlanders.  The  only 
reassuring  feature  in  the  situation  of  the  5th  Division  was 
that  the  Germans  were  not  pushing  their  way  up  the 
valley  of  the  Selle  past  the  right  flank  of  the  14th  Infantry 
Brigade  with  the  rapidity  and  vigour  that  might  have 

1  Apparently  the  greater  part  of  the  artillery  of  the  German  5th,  6th 
and  7th  Divisions  was  in  action  against  the  5th  Division. 

2  See  p.  150. 

VOL.  I  161  M 

162  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

been  expected.  Whether  the  German  ///.  Corps  had 
been  slow  in  following  its  advanced  troops,  or,  as  it  came 
upon  the  field,  had  been  diverted  from  Le  Cateau  west- 
ward, in  support  of  the  frontal  attack  on  the  14th  and 
13th  Infantry  Brigades,  was  unknown.1  In  any  case,  the 
detachment  of  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders, 
seeing  no  German  troops  in  the  valley,  turned  its  machine 
guns  at  long  range  on  to  the  ridge  east  of  Le  Cateau.  This 
drew  the  fire  of  the  German  artillery,  which  put  both  the 
machine  guns  out  of  action.  But,  at  the  moment,  the 
danger  lay  not  in  the  east  but  in  the  north.  About  noon, 
General  Smith-Dorrien  visited  the  5th  Divisional  Head- 
quarters again,  and  discussed  with  Sir  Charles  Fergusson 
the  question  of  holding  on  or  retiring.  As  the  Germans 
were  so  near,  it  was  thought  that  a  counter-attack  would 
be  necessary  to  disengage,  and  the  decision  to  retire  was, 
temporarily,  postponed. 

Shortly  before  1  P.M.,  Sir  Charles  Fergusson  from  his 
lookout  in  Reumont  village  could  see  that  the  right  of 
his  division  was  shaken  and  might  shortly  give  way,  and 
he  reported  in  that  sense  to  Corps  Headquarters.  A 
little  later  he  added  that  a  German  division 2  was 
working  round  his  right  towards  Bazuel.  Finally  at 
1.20  P.M.  he  suggested  that  unless  material  assistance 
could  be  sent  to  him  he  had  better  begin  retiring.  It 
seems  to  have  been  about  this  time  that,  during  a  lull 
in  the  German  fire,  the  teams  of  the  llth  Battery  came 
up  to  the  guns,  and  got  five  of  them  away,  the  team  of 
the  sixth  being  shot  down.  The  teams  of  the  80th  and 
37th  Batteries  also  came  forward,  and  brought  away  five 
of  the  guns  and  four  of  the  howitzers  ;  another  howitzer 
as  will  be  seen  was  recovered  later  on.  But  these  three 
batteries  were  saved  only  at  the  cost  of  the  teams  of  the 
52nd,  of  which  the  guns  had  consequently  to  be  abandoned. 
The  gunners  of  this  battery  were  ordered  to  retire,  but  a 
few  remained  and  managed  to  keep  one  gun  in  action. 
Somewhat  later,  the  teams  of  the  122nd  Battery  galloped 
up  through  the  line  of  the  West  Kents,  in  brigade  reserve, 
who  stood  up  and  cheered  them  loudly  as  they  dashed  be- 
tween their  trenches  and  onward  down  the  slope  towards 
their  guns.  As  they  came  within  view  of  the  enemy,  they 
were  struck  by  a  hurricane  of  shrapnel  and  of  bullets  from 
the  machine  guns  in  the  Cambrai  road ;  but  still  they  went 

1  For  what  happened  to  the  German  III.  Corps,  see  p.  185 
2  The  5th  Division  of  the  ///.  Corps. 


on.  The  officer  in  charge  of  the  teams  was  killed,  one  team  26  Aug. 
shot  down  in  a  heap  before  the  position  was  reached,  but  1914- 
two  guns  of  the  122nd  Battery  were  carried  out  without 
mishap.  A  third  was  limbered  up,  but  the  horses  went 
down  instantly.  It  was  an  extraordinary  sight :  a  short 
wild  scene  of  galloping  and  falling  horses,  and  then  four 
guns  standing  derelict,  a  few  limbers  lying  about,  one  on 
the  skyline  with  its  pole  vertical,  and  dead  men  and 
dead  horses  everywhere.  It  was  then  decided  to  abandon 
the  remainder,  as  also  the  guns  of  the  121st  and  123rd 
Batteries,  which  were  in  an  even  more  exposed  position, 
the  breech-blocks  being  first  removed  and  the  sights 
smashed.  Altogether,  twenty -five  field  guns  and  the 
howitzer  were  lost  in  this  part  of  the  field  ;  but,  con- 
sidering that  the  batteries  were  practically  in  the  firing 
line,  it  is  astonishing  that  any  were  rescued  ;  and  the  feat 
redounds  to  the  eternal  honour  of  the  officers  and  men 
of  the  5th  Divisional  Artillery. 

It  was  now  about  2  P.M.  At  1.40  P.M.,  in  response  to 
the  1.20  P.M.  message,  General  Smith-Dorrien  had  placed 
his  two  remaining  battalions,  the  Cameronians  and  the 
Royal  Welch  Fusiliers,  at  Sir  Charles  Fergusson's  disposal, 
ordering  them  to  move  from  Montigny  to  Bertry,  and 
asked  him  to  hold  his  ground  at  any  rate  a  little  longer 
so  as  to  allow  the  preliminary  movements  of  the  retire- 
ment to  take  effect,  but  to  begin  the  withdrawal  of  the 
5th  Division  as  soon  as  he  should  think  fit ;  after  which 
the  3rd  and  4th  Divisions  were  to  follow  in  succession. 
Roads  had  previously  been  allotted  for  the  retirement 
to  the  north-west  of  St.  Quentin,  when  it  should  take  place, 
as  follows  : — 

To  the  5th  Division  and  19th  Infantry  Brigade,  two  roads  :  Map  3. 

(1)  via  Bertry — Maretz,  and  thence  the  Roman  Road 

to  Vermand ; 

(2)  via  Reumont — Maurois  —  Busigny — Bohain — Bran- 

court — Joncourt — Bellenglise. 

To  the  3rd  Division,  that  via  Montigny — Clary — Elincourt 
— Malincourt  (east  of  the  Church) — Beaurevoir — Gouy — Bony 
— Hargicourt — Jeancourt. 

To  the  4th  Division,  that  via  Selvigny — Malincourt  (west 
of  the  Church) — Aubencheul — Ronssoy — Templeux — Roisel. 

To  the  Cavalry,  any  roads  west  of  the  4th  Division. 

The  pressure  upon  the  British  line  immediately  west  Map  11, 
of  Le  Cateau  now  became  severe,  and  it  seemed  clear  that 
the  Germans  were  preparing  for  a  great  effort.     Before 

164  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

the  teams  of  the  122nd  Battery  advanced,  three  platoons 
of  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders  had  twice 
made  gallant  attempts  to  reach  the  trenches  of  the 
Suffolks,  but  had  been  beaten  back  with  severe  loss 
by  artillery  and  machine-gun  fire.  They  rallied  under 
the  protection  of  the  59th  Field  Company  R.E.,  which 

fave  up  its  trenches  to  them  and  lay  down  in  the  open, 
o  intense,  in  fact,  was  the  machine-gun  fire  upon  the 
whole  ridge  to  the  rear  of  the  Suffolks  that  the  Highlanders 
had  to  abandon  the  line  of  the  road  which  they  had  taken 
up,  and  move  further  down  the  slope  towards  the  valley 
of  the  Selle.  Meanwhile,  the  German  battalions  were 
steadily  gaining  ground ;  in  fact,  as  the  last  gun  team  of 
the  5th  Divisional  Artillery  was  driving  off,  as  described 
two  paragraphs  above,  they  were  only  four  hundred  yards 
from  it,  and  were  only  kept  back  for  a  time  by  a  party  of 
the  Manchesters,  which,  with  the  machine-gun  detach- 
ment, offered  so  stout  a  resistance  as  to  gain  a  few  minutes' 
respite.  During  this  brief  interval,  Captain  Reynolds  of 
the  37th  Battery,  having  obtained  permission  to  call  for 
volunteers,  came  galloping  down  with  teams  to  rescue 
the  two  howitzers  which  had  been  left  on  the  ground. 
The  German  infantry  was  then  within  two  hundred  yards, 
yet  by  the  gallantry  and  devotion  of  this  little  party 
both  howitzers  were  limbered  up  ;  and  though  one  team 
was  shot  down  before  it  could  move,  the  other  galloped 
off  with  its  howitzer  and  brought  it  safely  away. 

This  episode,  which  gained  the  Victoria  Cross  for 
Captain  Reynolds  and  for  Drivers  Luke  and  Drain,  was 
the  last  gleam  of  light  upon  this  gloomy  corner  of  the 
field.1  Between  2.30  and  2.45  P.M.  the  end  came.  The 
Germans  had  by  this  time  accumulated  an  overwhelming 
force  in  the  shelter  of  the  Cambrai  road,  and  they  now 
fell  upon  the  Suffolks  from  the  front,  right  flank  and 
right  rear.  The  turning  movement,  however,  did  not  at 
once  make  itself  felt,  and  the  Suffolks  and  Argylls  opened 
rapid  fire  to  their  front  with  terrific  effect,  two  officers  of 
the  Highlanders,  in  particular,  bringing  down  man  after 
man  and  counting  their  scores  aloud  as  if  at  a  competition. 
The  Germans  kept  sounding  the  British  "  Cease  fire " 
and  gesticulating  to  persuade  the  men  to  surrender,  but 
in  vain.  At  length  a  rush  of  the  enemy  from  the  rear 
bore  down  all  resistance ;  and  the  Suffolks  and  their 
Highland  comrades  were  overwhelmed.  They  had  for 
1  Captain  Reynolds  was  killed  by  gas  near  Ypres,  1916. 


nine  hours  been  under  an  incessant  bombardment  which  26  Aug. 
had   pitted   the  whole   of  the  ground  with  craters,   and    1914- 
they  had  fought  to  the  very  last,   covering  themselves 
with  undying  glory. 

Meanwhile  orders  had  been  issued  about  2  P.M.1  by 
Sir  Charles  Fergusson  for  the  retirement  of  the  5th  Division 
to  begin,  but  these  do  not  appear  to  have  reached  any 
battalion  much  before  3  P.M.  It  was  comparatively  easy 
to  communicate  with  brigades,  but  nearly  impossible  to 
get  messages  to  the  firing  line,  as  the  fighting  there  was 
literally  hand-to-hand,  and  the  ground  in  rear  was  swept 
by  shell  fire.  Further,  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade  was 
handicapped  by  the  loss  of  its  Signal  Section,  which  had 
been  practically  destroyed  in  the  early  morning  fighting 
in  Le  Cateau.  As  a  result  no  orders  at  all  reached  Lieut. - 
Colonel  Bond  and  the  companies  of  the  Yorkshire  Light 
Infantry  in  the  firing  line.  The  survivors  of  the  Man- 
chesters  (14th)  and  Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders 
(19th)  drifted  back  towards  Reumont;  and  meanwhile  the 
right  of  the  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry,  which  faced  east- 
wards, was  heavily  engaged  with  German  infantry  advancing 
over  the  ridge  which  the  Suffolks  had  held.  First  two 
battalions  in  dense  masses  swept  over  the  crest  and  down 
the  beetroot-field  on  its  western  slopes.  The  K.O. Y.L.I. — 
five  platoons  with  two  machine  guns — allowed  them  to 
move  well  down  the  slope  and  then  opened  rapid  fire, 
which  drove  the  enemy  back  with  heavy  loss  to  the  reverse 
side  of  the  ridge.  Meanwhile,  the  Duke  of  Wellington's 
and  West  Rents  (13th  Infantry  Brigade)  had  begun  to 
retire  from  the  left  rear  of  the  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry,  as 
did  also  the  East  Surreys,  conforming  to  the  movement 
of  the  West  Kents  ;  whilst  the  Scottish  Borderers  (13th) 
on  the  other  flank  of  the  brigade  were  also  beginning  to 
fall  back.  When,  therefore,  shortly  after  their  first 
advance,  the  Germans  reappeared  on  the  crest  of  the 
ridge,  they  could  outflank  the  right  of  the  Yorkshire  Light 
Infantry.  This  they  proceeded  to  do,  progressing  slowly 
and  warily,  after  the  lesson  that  they  had  received,  and 
throwing  out  troops  wide  to  the  south-east  so  as  com- 
pletely to  envelop  the  K.O.Y.L.I.'s  right  rear.  The  five 
platoons  and  the  machine  guns  once  again  found  a  good 
target  at  five  hundred  yards'  range  and  took  full  ad- 
vantage of  it ;  but  the  Germans  now  pressed  home  their 

1  No  records  or  messages  of  this  period  are  available  as  the  5th  Divi- 
sional Headquarters'  wagon  was  hit  and  blown  up  in  Reumont. 

166  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

attack  on  the  main  front  of  the  battalion  from  the  Cambrai 
road,  and  on  its  left  flank  from  the  ground  vacated  by 
the  Scottish  Borderers.  Although  the  left,  by  sheer 
marksmanship,  was  able  to  prevent  the  enemy  from  plant- 
ing machine  guns  on  the  last-named  point,  it  could  not 
prevent  its  occupation  by  increasing  numbers  of  the  enemy 
who  at  once  opened  a  destructive  enfilade  fire.  A  desperate 
effort  was  made  to  reinforce  this  flank,  but  nearly  every 
man  sent  forward  was  shot  down  ;  and  the  enemy  now 
set  himself  systematically  to  roll  up  the  attenuated  line 
of  the  Yorkshiremen  from  left  to  right.  In  spite  of 
the  gallant  efforts  of  Major  Yate,1  who  commanded  the 
firing  line,  the  end  came  soon  afterwards;  the  company 
with  him  had  lost  over  sixty  men  killed  outright  and 
many  wounded,  and  the  other  companies  had  suffered 
equally  ;  and  when  about  3.30  P.M.  the  final  rush  of  the 
enemy  took  place,  the  survivors  were  overpowered  and 
made  prisoners.  That  night  the  2/K.O. Y.L.I,  mustered 
only  8  officers  and  320  rank  and  file,  but  it  had  held  up 
the  Germans  at  the  only  point  where  they  penetrated  into 
the  British  position,  and  thus  gave  the  rest  of  the  5th 
Division  a  clear  start  of  the  enemy  in  their  retirement. 

Whilst  the  advance  of  the  enemy  through  the  gap 
immediately  to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau  had  been  thus 
delayed  by  a  single  battalion,  the  progress  of  his  out- 
flanking movement  to  the  east  of  the  town  was  also 
checked.  Two  half-companies  of  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland 
Highlanders,  it  will  be  remembered,  had  moved  down 
the  western  slope  of  the  valley  of  the  Selle  ;  here  the 
59th  Field  Company  Royal  Engineers  had  joined  them  ; 
and  in  the  course  of  time,  half  the  1 /Middlesex,  with  two 
companies  of  the  1 /Scots  Fusiliers  (from  the  reserve  of 
the  9th  Infantry  Brigade)  prolonged  the  line  to  the  right. 
Towards  3  P.M.  German  troops  2  were  seen  advancing  west- 
wards over  the  spur  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  valley  ; 
whereupon  the  Highlanders  and  the  machine  guns  of  the 
Middlesex  opened  fire  at  twelve  hundred  yards'  range, 
and  effectually  turned  them  back.  Thus  the  Germans 
were  held  for  a  time  both  to  the  east  and  west  of 
Le  Cateau ;  and  General  Smith-Dorrien's  dispositions, 
now  in  progress,  to  cover  the  retreat  on  this  side  had 

1  Major  Yate  was  awarded  a  posthumous  Victoria  Cross.     He  was 
found  with  his  skull  smashed  in  by  persons  unknown  during  an  attempt 
to  escape  from  Germany. 

2  III.  Corps. 


ample  time  to  take  effect.  The  long  valley  that  runs  up  26  Aug. 
fj-om  Le  Cateau  southwards  to  Honnechy  had  been  since  1914> 
9  A.M.  under  the  observation  of  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade 
and  E  Battery,  posted  between  Escaufourt  and  Honnechy, 
these  troops  having  retired  to  that  position,  where  they 
found  L  Battery  in  action,  at  the  close  of  their  first  engage- 
ment with  the  enemy  about  Bazuel.  At  1.15  P.M.  the  Corn- 
wall Light  Infantry,  and  the  two  companies  of  the  East 
Surreys  that  were  with  them,  were  ordered  from  the  reserve 
of  the  5th  Division l  to  Honnechy ;  about  2  P.M.  the  2/Royal 
Welch  Fusiliers  and  I/Scottish  Rifles  of  the  19th  Infantry 
Brigade,  Sir  Horace's  only  corps  reserve,  now  at  the 
disposal  of  the  5th  Division,  were  directed  to  march  from 
Bertry,  and  to  post  themselves  on  the  left  of  the  Duke  of 
Cornwall's  at  Maurois  ;  and  the  1 /Norfolk  were  sent  back 
from  the  "  Tree "  on  the  Sunken  Road  to  Reumont. 
Lastly,  a  section  of  the  108th  Heavy  Battery  was  ordered 
to  take  up  a  position  near  Honnechy  ;  and,  though  one 
gun  was  unfortunately  upset  in  a  ditch  and  had  to  be 
abandoned,  the  other  safely  reached  the  place  assigned  to 
it.  By  3  P.M.,  or  very  little  later,  the  whole  of  these 
troops  were  in  position  behind  the  right  flank ;  and  it 
only  remained  to  be  seen  how  vigorously  the  enemy  would 
follow  up  his  success.  At  3.47  P.M.  the  II.  Corps  reported 
to  G.H.Q.  by  a  telegram,  received  at  3.50  P.M.,  that  the 
retirement  had  begun. 

Towards  3.30  P.M.  the  Germans2  again  showed  them- 
selves on  the  eastern  side  of  the  Selle,  this  time  in  extended 
order,  so  that  the  rifles  and  machine  guns  of  the  party  of 
Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders  had  not  the  same 
chance  against  them  as  before.  But,  as  they  advanced, 
they  were  met  by  the  shells  of  E  and  L  Batteries,  and, 
after  working  their  way  south  for  a  time,  took  shelter 
under  cover  of  the  railway  embankment,  and  there  came 
to  a  temporary  standstill.  The  1 /Middlesex  on  the  High- 
landers' right  now  withdrew  up  the  valley  of  the  Selle 
towards  Reumont ;  and  the  latter,  being  warned  that  the 
Germans  were  crossing  the  Roman  Road  in  their  left  rear, 
fell  back  to  the  spur  which  runs  south-west  from  Reumont, 
where  they  found  a  mixed  body  of  Manchesters  and  other 
units  deployed,  and  took  up  position  alongside  them.  The 
Germans  had  by  this  time — about  4.30  P.M. — brought  up 
guns  to  engage  the  British  batteries  near  Escaufourt  and 
were  again  advancing  up  the  valley  of  the  Selle  ;  but  their 

1  See  p.  147  et  seq.  2  III.  Corps. 

168  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

losses  were  heavy  and  their  progress  slow.  An  aeroplane 
detected  the  position  of  E  and  L  Batteries,  but  the  German 
fire  does  not  appear  to  have  done  any  great  damage.  There 
was  no  sign  of  German  cavalry  hurrying  forward  in  masses 
to  the  pursuit ;  and  there  seemed  to  be  a  good  prospect 
that  darkness  would  fall  before  the  enemy  could  close 
with  the  rear  guards  retiring  from  the  valley  of  the  Selle.1 
Immediately  to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau  in  the  13th 
Infantry  Brigade  area,  the  enemy  equally  failed  to  press 
his  advantage  ;  the  shells  of  the  61st  Howitzer  Battery 
and  108th  Heavy  Battery  constantly  broke  up  the  German 
infantry  when  it  tried  to  reassemble  and  re-form.  The 
2/Duke  of  Wellington's  was  certainly  heavily  shelled  as 
it  retired,  but  suffered  little  harm,  though  the  battalion 
became  widely  scattered.  The  West  Kents  fell  back  slowly 
and  methodically,  and  their  rear  guard  saw  nothing  to 
shoot  at  except  a  German  company  which  showed  itself 
for  a  few  minutes  passing  eastward  through  the  abandoned 
guns  of  the  XV.  Brigade  R.F.A.  more  than  a  thousand 
yards  away.  Between  4.30  and  5  P.M.  this  rear  guard 
retired  in  extended  order  without  molestation  even  by 
artillery.  The  Scottish  Borderers  withdrew  in  the  same 
way,  though  the  order  to  retire  unfortunately  did  not 
reach  the  greater  part  of  one  company,  which  was  sur- 
rounded and  captured.  Near  the  "  Tree  "  on  the  Sunken 
Road  at  least  one  company  halted  for  the  best  part  of  an 
hour,  and  fired  with  great  effect  upon  German  infantry 
nine  hundred  yards  to  its  right.  Between  4.15  and  5  P.M. 
the  battalion  fell  back  by  successive  companies  to  Trois- 
villes,  and  then  turned  to  cover  the  retreat  of  the  15th 
Infantry  Brigade  which  was  falling  back  in  perfect  order. 
Thus  on  the  right  of  the  line,  the  most  critical  point  of 
all,  things  had  not  gone  altogether  ill  in  the  first  and  most 
difficult  stage  of  the  retreat. 


Map  11.  Until  a  little  past  noon  the  Bedfords  and  Dorsets  in 
the  firing  line  of  the  15th  Infantry  Brigade,  on  the  left 
of  the  5th  Division,  saw  little  or  nothing  of  the  enemy, 
except  at  a  distance  ;  and  even  then  they  could  perceive 
only  small  parties  on  the  Cambrai  road  (which  at  this 

1  No  orders  for  pursuit  were  issued  by  von  Kluck  until  8.13  P.M., 
and  these  directed  the  line  Esnes — Caudry — Reumont  to  be  crossed  at 
4  A.M.  next  day. 


point  offered  no  shelter  to  the  enemy)  attempting  to  26  Aug 
bring  machine  guns  into  position.  These  were  promptly  1914 
engaged  and  smothered  by  the  fire  of  the  Dorsets'  machine 
guns  before  they  could  come  into  action.  Later  on  the 
German  infantry  showed  itself  in  front  in  greater  force, 
but  was  so  hotly  received  by  the  Bedfords  and  Dorsets, 
as  well  as  by  the  batteries  of  the  XXVII.  Brigade  R.F.A. 
that  it  would  not  venture  upon  a  definite  attack.  Soon 
after  3  P.M.  the  order  to  retire  was  received  by  the  15th 
Infantry  Brigade,  and  it  was  calmly  and  systematically 
obeyed.  The  119th  Battery  was  withdrawn  first,  and 
moved  back  to  the  spur  just  south  of  the  "  Tree  "  on  the 
Sunken  Road.  About  3.30  P.M.  the  Bedfords  and  Dorsets 
fell  back  slowly  in  succession  covered  by  the  machine 
guns  of  the  latter,  and,  together  with  the  121st  Battery, 
faced  about  again  at  the  south-eastern  angle  of  Troisvilles. 
No  Germans  had  yet  crossed  the  Cambrai  road  on  their 
front,  being  checked  by  the  rifle  fire,  at  long  range,  of  the 
right  company  of  the  Fifth  Fusiliers  (9th  Infantry  Brigade) ; 
but  the  enemy's  artillery  now  concentrated  a  very  heavy 
fire  upon  Troisvilles  from  the  north  and  north-east,  and, 
gradually  finding  the  range,  compelled  this  company,  as 
well  as  the  Scottish  Borderers  on  its  right,  to  retire  once 
more.  The  121st  Battery  was  only  limbered  up  with 
difficulty,  but  the  Dorsets,  well  covered  by  their  machine 
guns,  got  back  to  the  southern  end  of  Troisvilles  with  little 
loss.  A  German  aeroplane  now  appeared  over  their  heads, 
dropping  smoke  signals,  and  the  German  gunners  guided 
by  these  put  down  a  barrage  of  shrapnel  on  every  road 
and  track  leading  to  the  south.  The  Scottish  Borderers, 
who  had  taken  the  road  towards  Reumont,  were  diverted 
from  it  to  the  open  country  further  west.  The  Dorsets 
and  the  Bedfords  broke  into  small  parties  and,  passing 
through  the  barrage  with  little  or  no  damage,  headed  south 
across  country  towards  Maurois.  Bedfords,  Dorsets,  Cheshire 
(15th  Infantry  Brigade  reserve)  and  Scottish  Borderers 
all  entered  the  Roman  Road  near  Reumont  or  Maurois 
without  the  slightest  pressure  of  German  cavalry  or  infantry 
upon  their  rear.  Only  on  their  right — towards  Le  Cateau 
—had  the  enemy  been  seen  in  any  force  ;  and  his  advance 
there  had  been  delayed  as  has  already  been  described. 

The  withdrawal  of  the  5th  Division  from  a  broad  and 
scattered  front  on  to  a  single  road  at  right  angles  to  it 
naturally  brought  as  a  consequence  a  thorough  mix-up 
of  all  units — except  in  the  case  of  the  15th  Infantry 

170  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

Brigade,  which  entered  it  as  a  formed  body.  This  state 
of  affairs  the  Staff,  as  will  be  later  narrated,  took  steps 
to  remedy  as  soon  as  possible  ;  but  the  enemy  was  too 
close  for  any  immediate  attempt  at  re-forming  to  be 
made.  There  was,  to  quote  one  eye-witness,  "  confusion, 
but  no  disorganization;  disorder,  but  no  panic";  while 
another  has  exactly  caught  the  scene  by  saying  that  it 
reminded  him  of  a  crowd  leaving  a  race  meeting  and 
making  its  way  earnestly  towards  a  railway  station. 

NOON  TO  5  P.M.  :    THE  3RD  DIVISION 

Map  11.  On  the  left  of  the  15th  Infantry  Brigade  in  the  3rd 
Division  sector,  the  9th  was  perfectly  secure.  The  enemy 
had  established  himself  on  the  southern  edge  of  Inchy, 
but  had  been  unable  to  advance  a  yard  further  ;  and, 
though  Brigadier-General  Shaw's  battalions  had  had 
little  opportunity  of  using  their  rifles,  the  XXIII.  Brigade 
R.F.A.  had  inflicted  very  severe  loss  on  the  German  infantry. 
Soon  after  3  P.M.  the  brigadier  observed  that  the  troops 
on  his  right  were  retreating  ;  and  though  it  was  plain  that 
the  Germans  were  not  following  them  in  any  strength,  he 
was  relieved  when  orders  reached  him,  at  3.30  P.M.,  to  con- 
form with  the  movement.  Pushing  up  the  Royal  Fusiliers 
from  the  reserve  to  the  north-western  edge  of  Troisvilles, 
he  brought  away  nearly  all  his  wounded,  after  which  he 
withdrew  in  succession  the  Fifth  Fusiliers  and  the  Lincoln- 
shire with  very  trifling  loss.  The  German  skirmishers 
lining  the  southern  edge  of  Inchy  tried  hard  to  hinder 
the  movement,  but  were  silenced  by  the  advanced  sections 
of  the  107th  and  108th  Batteries.  Although  the  Fifth 
Fusiliers,  before  they  could  reach  the  shelter  of  a  hollow 
near  Le  Fayt,  had  to  cross  a  thousand  yards  of  open 
ground,  the  German  artillery  scarcely  fired  a  round  at 
them.  As  the  last  party  of  the  Lincolnshire  came  abreast 
of  the  advanced  section  of  the  108th  Battery,  the  officer 
in  command,  having  fired  off  his  last  round  of  ammunition, 
disabled  and  abandoned  his  guns.  They  and  the  other 
advanced  section  had  done  great  work,  but  at  the  cost  of 
four  eighteen-pounders.  The  retreat  was  then  continued 
methodically,  without  pressure  from  the  enemy,  and  the 
battalions  re-formed  as  soon  as  they  reached  sheltered 
ground.  The  XXIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  was  collected  at 
Bertry  ;  and  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade  took  up  a  position 
on  the  ridge  between  Bertry  and  Montigny  to  cover  the 


retreat   of  the   rest   of  the   3rd   Division ;    its    casualties  26  Aug. 
hardly  amounted  to  one  hundred  and  eighty.  1914- 


The  course  of  events  west  of  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade  Map  11. 
is  less  easy  to  describe.  From  noon  onwards  there  was 
a  lull  in  the  German  fire  ;  and  advantage  was  taken  of 
this  to  reinforce  the  troops  at  Caudry  with  half  a  company 
of  the  Irish  Rifles.  Some  of  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade 
likewise  seized  the  opportunity  to  recross  to  the  north 
side  of  the  Warnelle  Ravine  in  order  to  bring  in  their 
wounded,  but  they  were  driven  back  by  a  steady  fire  from 
the  enemy  before  they  could  collect  many  of  them.  Then 
about  1.40  P.M.  the  German  guns  opened  fire  once  more 
with  increased  violence  and  in  much  greater  numbers,1 
concentrating  in  the  first  instance  chiefly  on  Caudry, 
while  simultaneously  German  infantry  advanced  against 
the  junction  of  the  Royal  Scots  and  Gordon  Highlanders 
immediately  to  the  north  of  Audencourt.  They  failed 
however  to  gain  any  ground,  being  met  by  an  accurate 
fire  on  their  front  and  effectively  enfiladed,  at  a  range 
of  six  hundred  yards,  by  the  left  company  of  the  Gordons. 
At  Caudry  itself  the  enemy  was  more  successful,  for  by 
2  P.M.  the  troops  of  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade  were  driven 
from  the  village  by  the  bombardment,  and  German  infantry 
was  able  to  enter  and  occupy  it.  About  the  same  time 
masses  of  German  infantry2  developed  a  strong  attack 
from  the  north-west  against  the  half-battalion  of  the 
Inniskilling  Fusiliers  which  covered  the  western  flank  at 
Esnes.  It  was  met  by  rapid  rifle  and  machine-gun  fire, 
supported  shortly  after  by  artillery.  The  answering 
German  fire  was  wholly  ineffective,  and  the  Inniskillings 
were  able  to  check  this  attack  completely.  Nevertheless, 
the  situation  was  not  reassuring,  for  it  was  clear'  that 
fresh  German  infantry,  the  herald  of  another  corps,  had 
come  up,  and  that,  if  it  failed  to  break  in  on  the  north 
side  of  Esnes,  it  would  work  round  to  the  left  flank  and 

Meanwhile,  between  2.30  and  3  P.M.  the  3/Worcester- 

1  Some  guns  of  the  German  Jfih  Reserve  Corps  had  no  doubt  arrived 
(see  footnote  2,  p.  174). 

2  This  was,  no  doubt,  the  advanced  guard  of  the  7th  Reserve  Division, 
which  got  up  at  2  P.M.  (see  footnote  1,  p.  174). 

172  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

shire  (7th  Infantry  Brigade)  counter-attacked  at  Caudry, 
reoccupied  the  southern  portion  of  the  village  and  pushed 
advanced  posts  to  the  north  and  north-east.  But  the 
northern  part  of  the  village  was  not  recovered,  and  the 
Germans  had  already  made  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade 
sensible  of  their  presence  on  its  right  flank.  Brigadier- 
General  Hunter- Weston,  naturally  assuming  that  Caudry 
had  been  finally  lost,  decided  to  withdraw  the  llth  Infantry 
Brigade  across  the  Warnelle  Ravine  to  a  position  before 
Ligny.  The  guns  of  the  135th  Battery  were  brought 
forward  and  entrenched  in  and  round  Ligny  for  close 
defence  ;  and  then,  the  1 /Rifle  Brigade  being  left  at  the 
"  Quarry "  as  rear  guard,  the  remaining  battalions  of 
the  brigade  were  shortly  after  3  P.M.  drawn  off  into  the 
low  ground  of  the  Ravine  under  a  perfect  tempest  of 
shrapnel.  As  they  came  into  sight  of  the  Germans  again 
on  the  slope  just  below  Ligny,  the  enemy  redoubled  his 
fire,  inflicting  considerable  loss,  and  when  at  last  the 
rear  guard  withdrew  from  the  "  Quarry,"  the  German 
infantrymen1  sprang  up  from  their  concealed  positions 
and  rushed  forward  in  pursuit.  Their  ranks  were  instantly 
torn  and  mangled  by  the  British  guns  ;  but  they  speedily 
rallied  and  continued  the  advance  regardless  of  losses, 
and,  before  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade  could  be  completely 
re-formed,  they  swarmed  forward  to  the  attack  of  Ligny. 
Met  by  shrapnel  and  rapid  fire,  they  turned,  unable  to 
persist  against  the  hail  of  bullets.  But  being  reinforced, 
they  advanced  again,  only  to  suffer  still  more  heavily, 
for  the  British  were  now  better  prepared  to  receive  them. 
They  fell  back  again,  too  severely  punished  to  find  heart 
for  a  third  attempt ;  and  the  4th  Division  was  left  in 
undisputed  possession  of  Ligny.  These  actions  hardly 
came  to  a  complete  end  before  4  P.M. 

It  was  amid  such  turmoil  on  the  extreme  left  of  the 
line  that  shortly  after  3  P.M.  General  Hubert  Hamilton 
rode  down  to  Colonel  W.  D.  Bird,  who  was  with  his 
battalion  of  Irish  Rifles  at  Troncquoy,  and  directed  him 
to  take  command  of  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade,  since 
Brigadier-General  McCracken  had  been  disabled  by  a  shell, 
and  to  withdraw  the  troops  from  Caudry  under  cover  of 
the  Irish  Rifles  and  two  field  batteries.  Colonel  Bird 
made  his  dispositions  accordingly  ;  and  by  4.30  P.M.  his 
brigade  was  practically  clear  of  the  village.  At  that  hour 

1  The  3rd,  9th  and  lOlh  Jdger  and  19!h  Cavalry  Brigade  according  to 
"  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  pp.  59,  60. 


the  troops  in  Audencourt,  on  the  east  of  Caudry,  suddenly  26  Aug. 
fell  back,  both  artillery  and  infantry.  The  8th  Infantry 
Brigade  had  received  its  instructions  to  retire  about  3.30 
P.M.,  but  there  was  difficulty  and  delay  in  communicating 
them  to  the  various  units,  and  it  is  certain  that  some  of 
them  received  none  at  all.  The  4/Middlesex  and  the  Royal 
Scots,  with  the  exception  of  a  detached  party  of  the  latter  on 
the  immediate  right  of  the  Gordons,  were  withdrawn  without 
much  difficulty.  The  party  above  named,  together  with 
the  bulk  of  the  Gordons,  and  two  companies  of  the  Royal 
Irish,  having  no  orders  to  move,  remained  in  their  positions. 
Three  platoons  of  the  Gordons,  however,  heard  of  the  order 
to  retire,  and  managed  to  get  away,  as  also  did  the  reserve 
companies  of  the  Royal  Irish.  These  last  were  obliged  to 
fight  hard  to  extricate  themselves  and  the  batteries  of  the 
XL.  Brigade  R.F.A. ; l  but  three  guns  of  the  6th  Battery 
were  lost,  the  teams  being  shot  down  by  a  lucky  salvo 
whilst  in  the  act  of  withdrawing.  Two  platoons  of 
the  Royal  Irish  also  were  cut  off  from  their  main  body, 
but  contrived  to  make  good  their  retreat  independently. 
Meanwhile  since  2.30  P.M.  Audencourt  had  been  furiously 
bombarded,  and  the  vehicles  and  horses  of  the  8th  Brigade 
Headquarters,  and  the  whole  of  the  brigade  machine  guns 
and  transport  were  lost.  The  German  infantry,  however, 
made  no  attempt  to  advance.  The  41st  Battery,  working 
with  Colonel  Bird,  opened  fire  on  the  crest  east  of  Caudry, 
as  soon  as  our  troops  were  clear  of  it ;  but,  so  far  as  can  be 
gathered,  there  was  at  the  time  not  a  single  German  upon 
this  ground.  Half  an  hour  later,  however,  at  5  P.M.  the 
German  infantrymen  did  swarm  forward,  toiling  painfully 
up  a  gentle  slope  through  beetroots  that  reached  to  their 
knees.  Whether  they  expected  opposition  or  not  is  hard 
to  say,  but  they  were  met  by  the  rapid  fire  of  the  Gordon 
Highlanders  and  Royal  Scots,  who  shot  them  down  at  a 
range  of  from  four  to  six  hundred  yards  with  the  greatest 
coolness.  One  subaltern  of  the  Royal  Scots  reckoned  that 
he  hit  thirty  to  forty  of  them  himself.  The  Germans 
were  unable  to  gain  an  inch  of  ground ;  for  the  best  part 
of  an  hour  they  swayed  backwards  and  forwards  in  front 
of  these  few  isolated  groups,  probably  exaggerating  their 
strength  both  in  men  and  machine  guns,  but  completely  at 
a  loss  how  to  clear  them  out  of  the  way. 

The  rest  of  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade,  having  re-formed 

1  Their  adversaries  were  two  brigades  of  the  9th  Cavalry  Division  and 
the  whole  of  the  4ih  ("  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  pp.  61,  62). 

174  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

in  dead  ground,  took  the  road  to  Montigny,  and  Colonel 
Bird,  after  waiting  for  fully  twenty  minutes  without  seeing 
a  sign  either  of  retreating  British  or  advancing  Germans, 
led  back  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade  soon  after  5  P.M.  by  the 
same  road,  without  the  slightest  interference  on  the  part 
of  the  enemy. 


Map  3.  Thus  by  5  P.M.,  roughly  speaking,  the  whole  of  the  II. 
Corps  had  begun  its  retreat  and  its  rear  guards  were  all  in 
position,  and  the  moment  had  come  for  the  4th  Division, 
which  was  on  its  left,  to  move ;  and  there  was  no  time  to 
lose.  For,  although  the  right  of  the  division  was  for  the 
moment  secure  after  the  double  repulse  of  the  German 
attack  upon  Ligny,  masses  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  1  were 
now  arriving  from  the  direction  of  Cattenieres — Wambaix. 

Map  11.  The  appearance  of  Sordet's  Cavalry  in  the  left  rear  of 
the  4th  Division  now  provided  a  most  opportune  diversion. 
General  Smith-Dorrien  had  naturally  counted  on  this  co- 
operation ;  and  General  Sordet,  having  visited  Sir  John 
French  at  9  A.M.,  was  fully  conversant  with  the  situation. 
His  corps  on  the  night  of  the  24th/25th  had  bivouacked 
near  Avesnes — Dompierre,  and  on  the  25th  moved  more 
than  thirty  miles  across  the  line  of  march  of  the  B.E.F.  in 
order  to  reach  its  left  flank.  It  arrived  late  at  night  in 
the  neighbourhood  of  Walincourt,  about  ten  miles  west 
by  south  of  Le  Cateau,  men  and  horses  dog-tired  and 
soaked  with  rain.  Of  its  three  divisions,  the  5th  halted 
for  the  night  in  and  about  Esnes,  the  1st  at  Lesdain  and 
the  3rd  at  Le  Bosquet  (3  miles  south-west  of  Esnes).  The 
corps  moved  out  to  the  south  of  Cambrai  on  the  morning 
of  the  26th  in  observation  of  the  ground  on  the  left  rear  of 
the  British  and  of  the  southern  exits  from  Cambrai. 
Towards  4  P.M.,  when  the  moment  for  effective  action 
seemed  to  have  come,  the  corps  found  itself  faced  by 
German  infantry 2  from  the  direction  of  Wambaix,  and  its 
batteries  opened  fire.  These  guns  were  heard  by  General 
Smith-Dorrien  about  4.30  P.M.  as  he  was  moving  south 

1  The  7th  Reserve  Division,  see  Hauptmann  Wirth's  "  Von  der  Saale 
zur  Aisne."     He  states  that  the  advanced  guard  of  the  division  reached 
the  Cambrai  highroad  north  of  Cattenieres  about  2  P.M.,  and  that  the 
guns    had  been  sent  on  ahead  and  were   already  in  action.     He  adds 
that  the  German  "  cavalry  had  been  thrown  on  the  defensive  and  several 
regiments  were  cowering  under  cover  behind  the  houses." 

2  22nd  Division  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps,  probably. 

SITUATION  AT  5  P.M.  175 

from  Bertry  to  his  new  headquarters  at  St.  Quentin,  and,  26  Aug. 
not  knowing  whether  the  sound  came  from  French  or   1914- 
German  artillery,  he  had  a  bad  moment ;    but,  galloping 
up  to  the  top  of  some  high  ground  near  Maretz,  he  was 
able  to  satisfy  himself  that  it  could  be  only  from  French 
75's.1     Further,  beyond  the  left  of  the  French  cavalry,  it 
was  known  that  troops  of  General  d'Amade  were  in  and 
about   Cambrai.2     All,    therefore,    seemed   well,    and   the 
British  left  flank  secure. 

1  The  following  further  details  are  available  as  regards  General  Sordet's  Map  3. 
Cavalry  Corps  :    The   1st  Cavalry  Division  billeted  and  bivouacked  for 

the  night  of  the  25th/26th  around  Esnes  to  Le  Bosquet,  with  the  5th 
on  its  right  and  the  3rd  on  its  left.  The  corps  moved  out  early  after  a 
night  spent  in  great  discomfort  in  wet  clothes.  During  the  day  the 
divisions  manoeuvred  and  reconnoitred  ;  the  1st  moving  back  to  Villers 
Guislain,  and  then  forward  about  2  P.M.  to  within  a  short  distance  of 
Cambrai,  where  it  engaged  hostile  infantry  (//.  Corps)  coming  out  of  the 
town,  until  6.30  P.M.,  and  then  it  retired  with  the  5th  Cavalry  Division 
(whose  other  movements  are  not  known)  via  Gouzeaucourt.  (From 
Extracts  of  War  Diary  of  the  llth  Dragoon  Brigade  and  Major  Letard's 
"  Trois  Mois  au  Premier  Corps  de  Cavalerie.") 

2  See  Note  at  end  of  Chapter  IX. 



(See  Sketch  3  ;  Maps  3,  4,  9,  11  &  13) 

The  Right  of  the  Line. 

Sketch  3.  THE  party  of  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders  (19th 
Map  11.  infantry  Brigade),1  together  with  the  59th  Field  Co.  R.E. 
and  a  collection  of  scattered  men,  last  mentioned  as  being 
on  the  right,  was  deployed  upon  the  spur  that  runs  south- 
eastward from  Reumont.  The  Royal  Welch  Fusiliers, 
Cameronians  (both  of  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade,  from 
Montigny),  Norfolks  (15th  Infantry  Brigade)  and  one  sixty- 
pounder  of  the  108th  Heavy  Battery,  were  in  rear  of  it, 
between  Maurois  and  Honnechy.  The  Bays  (1st  Cavalry 
Brigade),  with  E  and  L  Batteries,  were  at  Escaufourt, 
E  Battery  being  in  action  against  the  guns  which  were 
endeavouring  to  cover  the  advance  of  the  German  infantry 
of  the  III.  Corps  up  the  valley  of  the  Selle.  This  infantry 
now  crossed  the  Roman  Road  on  the  Highlanders'  left 
front,  advancing  in  open  order  with  company  columns  in 
rear,  and  was  engaged  by  the  party  at  a  thousand  yards' 
range.  The  enemy  made  no  great  progress,  for  the  party 
had  plenty  of  ammunition,  and  there  was  no  immediate 
reason  why  it  should  fall  back.  After  a  time,  however — 
about  5.30  P.M. — Lieut. -Colonel  Ward  of  the  I/Middlesex 
(19th  Infantry  Brigade)  led  his  own  battalion  (which  had 
been  halted  east  of  Reumont  in  the  valley  of  the  Selle), 
and  the  various  detachments  on  the  spur  near  by,  towards 
Reumont  and  the  Roman  Road,  detailing  the  Highlanders 
to  act  as  his  rear  guard.  The  whole,  therefore,  moved  off 
in  succession,  skirting  Reumont  where  German  shells  were 

1  See  p.  167. 


now  falling  thickly ;  the  rear  guard  had  no  sooner  quitted  26  Aug. 
its  position  than  the  German  artillery  searched  the  deserted  1914- 
spur  with  a  hail  of  shrapnel.  A  company  and  a  half  of 
the  Norfolks,  sheltered  in  a  quarry  to  the  south-west  of 
Reumont,  were  now  left  as  the  troops  nearest  to  the 
enemy  ;  and  about  this  time  the  cavalry  and  horse  artillery 
began  to  fall  back  slowly  from  Escaufourt  towards  Busigny 
(6  miles  S.S.W.  of  Le  Cateau),  leaving  the  passage  up 
the  valley  towards  Honnechy  open  to  the  enemy.  The 
Norfolks  opened  fire  at  a  range  of  about  1,800  yards  on 
the  German  infantry  in  extended  order  to  the  north-east, 
and  in  due  time  retired  to  the  edge  of  Honnechy,  passing 
as  they  went  through  a  company  of  the  Royal  Welch 
Fusiliers,  which  had  been  deployed  to  take  over  rear  guard 
from  them. 

From  this  point  the  Norfolk  companies  had  a  clearer 
view  of  German  columns,  both  of  infantry  and  artillery, 
advancing  on  the  road  up  the  valley  from  Le  Cateau,  pre- 
ceded by  lines  of  skirmishers.  They  engaged  them  at  long 
range,  and  the  solitary  sixty-pounder  of  the  108th  Heavy 
Battery,  having  no  shrapnel  left,  opened  fire  with  lyddite. 
Major  G.  H.  Sanders  commanding  the  122nd  Field  Battery, 
having  after  a  time  followed  his  two  remaining  guns  to 
Reumont,  collected  two  ammunition  wagons,  and  un- 
limbered  south  of  the  village  and  opened  fire  on  the  enemy 

The  Germans  had  by  this  time  advanced  up  the  valley 
to  the  point  where  the  road  from  Reumont  to  St.  Souplet 
intersects  that  from  Le  Cateau  to  Busigny  ;  but  there,  to 
the  great  surprise  of  the  Norfolks,  they  stopped  and  showed 
themselves  no  more.1 

It  was  now  fully  6  P.M.  A  drizzling  rain  had  just  set 
in,  and  the  light  was  beginning  to  fail  early.  The  enemy's 
pursuit  seemed  to  die  away.  His  guns  did  indeed  shell  the 
position  of  the  Royal  Welch  Fusiliers  ;  but,  instead  of 
heavy  masses  of  infantry,  small  parties  of  cavalry  'now 
hovered  about  their  front,  feeling  their  way  forward  and 
provoking  constant  little  bursts  of  fire  from  the  British 
rear  guards,  which  in  the  meanwhile  continued  to  fall 
back  in  succession  as  the  Roman  Road  gradually  became 
clear  for  them.  The  congestion  on  that  road  was  con- 
siderable, for  it  was  packed  with  infantry,  guns,  transport 

1  Von  Kluck  does  not  explain  this,  saying  "  the  latter  [///.]  Corps, 
"  ordered  to  march  on  Maretz,  did  not  get  further  than  Honnechy  on  the 
"  26th,  so  that  the  attempted  enveloping  movement  failed." 

VOL.  I  N 

178        LE  CATEAU  (5  P.M.  TO  NIGHTFALL) 

and  ambulances  of  the  5th  Division  and  the  19th  Infantry 
Brigade  in  no  fixed  order,  just  as  each  unit  had  happened 
Map.  3.  to  strike  the  highway.  There  was  some  confusion,  but  the 
men  marched  on  steadily  and  in  silence.  A  few  units — 
the  1 /Middlesex  and  a  number  of  scattered  men  under 
Lieut.-Colonel  Moulton-Barrett  of  the  Argyll  and  Suther- 
land Highlanders — made  their  way  by  two  parallel  tracks, 
east  of  the  Roman  Road,  to  Busigny,  where  the  3rd 
Cavalry  Brigade  was  in  position  to  cover  them,  and  thence 
turned  westward  into  the  Roman  Road.  At  7  P.M.  or  a 
little  later,  German  cavalry  patrols  ran  into  parties  of  the 
llth  and  19th  Hussars  north  of  Busigny  ;  and  men  of  the 
former  regiment  were  shelled  while  crossing  the  railway 
near  Busigny  station.  The  Duke  of  Cornwall's  Light 
Infantry,  the  two  companies  of  the  East  Surrey  which 
were  with  them,  the  Royal  Welch  Fusiliers  and  the 
Cameronians,  moved  back  steadily  from  position  to  posi- 
tion and  arrived  at  Maretz,  almost  without  firing  a  shot ; 
the  Cameronians  waited  at  Maretz  until  9.30  P.M.  without 
seeing  a  sign  of  the  enemy.  Hostile  pursuit,  worthy  of 
the  name,  had  ceased  after  6  P.M.  ;  in  fact  contact  was 
practically  lost  as  darkness  fell.  The  whole  of  the  5th 
Division  and  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade  were  now  in 
retreat  along  the  Roman  Road;  their  right  flank,  which 
had  been  exposed  all  day,  was  no  longer  threatened. 


Map  11  The  narrative  left  the  3rd  Division  in  the  following 
situation  :  two  companies  of  the  Royal  Irish,  some  of  the 
Royal  Scots  and  the  greater  part  of  the  Gordon  High- 
landers were  still  occupying  their  original  ground  in  front 
of  Audencourt,  having  received  no  orders  to  retire,  and 
were  successfully  arresting  any  German  advance  ;  the  9th 
Infantry  Brigade  was  in  a  covering  position  between 
Bertry  and  Montigny  (2  miles  south  of  Caudry) ;  and  the 
bulk  of  the  7th  and  8th  were  in  orderly  retreat  on  Montigny. 

Map  3.  These  two  latter  formations  passed  through  the  9th 
Infantry  Brigade  and  marched  away  to  Clary,  making 
south-westwards  for  Beaurevoir  (13  miles  south-west  of  Le 
Cateau)  by  way  of  Elincourt  and  Malincourt.  Not  a 
German  came  forward,  not  even  a  cavalry  patrol,  to  follow 
them ;  and  not  a  shell  was  fired  at  the  9th  Infantry 
Brigade,  which  at  6  P.M.  became  the  rear  guard  to  the  3rd 
Division.  Evidently  the  enemy  was  wholly  occupied  with 

THE  3RD  AND  4ra  DIVISIONS  179 

the  detachments — not  a  thousand  strong,  all  told — which  26  Aug. 
had  not  retired  from  the  original  fighting  line.  At  6  P.M.,  1914- 
after  an  hour  spent  in  vain  and  costly  attempts  to  break 
through  the  Gordons,  his  fire  died  down,  but  began  again 
twenty  minutes  later,  as  he  tried  to  work  round  the  right 
of  the  Royal  Scots.  This  was  however  foiled  by  the 
oblique  fire  of  the  right  company  of  the  Gordons,  across 
the  front  of  the  Royal  Scots  ;  and  at  6.45  P.M.  the  Germans 
once  again  concentrated  a  heavy  bombardment  upon 
Audencourt.  As  darkness  came  down  the  firing  died 
away  into  occasional  fitful  bursts,  but  at  8.30  P.M.  the 
German  guns  once  more  heaped  shells  upon  the  ruins  of 
Audencourt,  not  a  little  to  the  wonder  of  the  3rd  Division, 
who,  from  the  heights  south  of  Clary  some  six  miles  away, 
watched  the  projectiles  bursting  over  its  deserted  position 
with  grim  satisfaction.  Thus  the  British  centre  had  been 
withdrawn,  from  under  the  very  eyes  of  the  Germans, 
with  very  little  difficulty  and  no  serious  loss. 

5  P.M.  TO  NIGHTFALL  :    THE  4ra  DIVISION 

About  5  P.M.  the  infantry  brigadiers  of  the  4th  Division  Map  11. 
received  their  orders  to  retreat,  the  10th  Infantry  Brigade 
being  detailed  as  rear  guard.  At  that  hour  the  German 
infantry  to  the  immediate  front  of  the  line  was  still 
quiescent  from  the  effects  of  its  repulse  before  Ligny  ; 
but  the  volume  of  hostile  artillery  fire  had  continued 
steadily  to  increase,  and  the  turning  movement  round 
the  western  flank  of  Esnes  had  been  renewed  and  pressed 
until  the  Inniskillings  had  been  forced  back  to  the  western 
fringe  of  the  village.  The  units  of  the  10th  and  12th 
Infantry  Brigades  were  so  mixed  that  the  transmission 
of  orders  was  exceedingly  difficult ;  but  the  sound  of 
General  Sordet's  guns  about  Crevecoeur  (2J  miles  west 
of  Esnes)  gave  assurance  that  the  division  could  retire 
without  fear  of  serious  attack  on  its  western  flank.  •  The 
Seaforth  Highlanders,  already  in  position  behind  this  flank, 
between  Guillemin  and  St.  Aubert  Farm,  had  been  joined 
in  the  course  of  the  afternoon  by  some  platoons  of  the 
Irish  Fusiliers,  and  these,  with  the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade 
further  east  near  Selvigny,  were  thus  ready  to  cover  the 
first  stage  of  the  retreat.  Artillery  support  was  also 
close  at  hand,  for,  meantime,  Brigadier-General  Milne, 
having  had  early  warning  of  the  intention  to  break  off  the 
action,  had  made  general  arrangements  for  the  retirement 

180        LE  CATEAU  (5  P.M.  TO  NIGHTFALL) 

of  the  artillery  to  a  succession  of  covering  positions. 
After  the  heavy  attack  on  Haucourt  about  2  P.M.  the 
XXIX.  Brigade  R.F.A.  had  retired  to  a  position  in  the 
Iris  valley  between  Caullery  and  Selvigny  (2  miles  S.S.W. 
of  Ligny),  and  the  XIV.  Brigade  had  moved  back  about 
the  same  time  to  another  one  immediately  north  of  Sel- 
vigny. About  4  P.M.  the  35th  (Howitzer)  Battery  had  been 
ordered  back  behind  the  railway,  so  as  to  be  prepared 
to  cover  the  retirement  of  the  remainder  of  its  brigade, 
which  was  ready  to  do  the  same  for  the  XXXII.  Brigade, 
still  south-west  of  Ligny.  At  4.30  P.M.  orders  were  given 
for  the  Brigade  Ammunition  Columns  to  get  clear  and 
join  the  route  of  the  main  column  at  Walincourt  (3  miles 
S.S.W.  of  Ligny).  About  5  P.M.  the  31st  and  55th 
(Howitzer)  Batteries  were  withdrawn  to  the  south  of 
Selvigny,  where  the  35th  Battery  joined  them. 

It  is  difficult  to  ascertain  which  of  the  infantry  were 
the  first  to  be  withdrawn  ;  but  it  seems  that  part  of  the 
12th  Infantry  Brigade,  the  Essex  and  the  two  forward 
companies  of  the  Inniskillings,  moved  off  soon  after  5  P.M., 
halting  and  facing  about  on  the  road  between  Selvigny 
and  Guillemin.  The  Lancashire  Fusiliers,  half  of  the 
Dublin  Fusiliers  (10th  Infantry  Brigade),  and  part  of  the 
King's  Own  appear  to  have  started  rather  later,  though 
half  of  the  King's  Own,  receiving  no  warning  to  retire, 
remained  in  position  at  Haucourt.  The  rest  of  the  Innis- 
killings slipped  away  in  small  parties  from  Esnes,  just  as 
the  enemy  penetrated  to  the  western  houses  of  the  village, 
and  retreated  upon  Walincourt  in  good  order.  The  enemy 
smothered  the  road  with  shrapnel,  but  the  British  columns 
moved  on  either  side  of  it  and  escaped  all  damage. 

The  llth  Infantry  Brigade  and  the  remainder  of  the 
12th,  much  scattered,  held  their  positions  until  6  P.M.  or 
even  later.  The  135th  Battery  (XXXII.  Brigade  R.F.A.), 
which  was  in  close  support  of  the  infantry  near  Ligny, 
was  so  exposed  that  its  withdrawal  seemed  impossible, 
and  orders  were  actually  issued  that  the  guns  should  be 
abandoned,  but  the  battery  commander,  Major  Liveing,1 
decided  to  try  and  save  his  guns  and,  withdrawing  them 
and  their  wagons  by  hand,  brought  all  of  them  (except 
one  wagon)  safely  away.  To  the  west  of  Ligny  the  posi- 
tion of  the  27th  Battery  (XXXII.  Brigade  R.F.A.)  was 
even  worse  ;  nevertheless,  the  gunners,  taking  advantage 
of  every  lull,  succeeded  in  running  back  four  guns  and 
1  He  was  awarded  the  D.S.O. 


limbers  to  the  sunken  road  in  rear,  when  increase  in  the  26  Aug. 
German  artillery  fire  compelled  them  to  abandon  the  re-    1914- 
maining  two.     The  battery  then  formed  up  and  awaited 
its  opportunity  ;  it  eventually  made  a  dash  to  the  south- 
west, and,  though  it  was  pursued  by  German  shells,  got  its 
four  guns  safely  away.1 

Of  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade,  Lieut.-Colonel  Swayne 
of  the  Somerset  Light  Infantry  brought  away  with 
him  what  survived  of  two  companies ;  the  rest  of  the 
battalion  under  Major  Prowse  having  become  separated 
from  him  remained  fighting  at  Ligny  until  a  late  hour. 
The  East  Lancashire  withdrew  in  three  distinct  bodies, 
two  of  which  united  at  Clary.  The  main  body  of  the 
I/Rifle  Brigade  made  its  way  to  Selvigny  and  took  up  a 
covering  position  there,  whilst  another  party,  with  scattered 
men  of  other  regiments,  came  later  to  the  same  village  with 
the  brigadier.  Last  of  all  the  Hampshire  retired,  about 
7  P.M.,  and  overtook  the  rest  of  the  brigade  on  its  way  to 
Serain  (4  miles  south  of  Selvigny),  where  it  passed  the 
night.  Of  the  10th  Infantry  Brigade,  only  the  Seaforth 
Highlanders  and  the  greater  part  of  the  Irish  Fusiliers 
were  under  their  brigadier's  hand.  Half  of  the  Warwick- 
shire and  a  good  number  of  the  Dublin  Fusiliers  were  still  in 
Haucourt,  and  the  remainder  were  dispersed  in  various  direc- 
tions, some  as  escort  to  guns,  others  in  small  isolated  bodies. 

As  with  the  rest  of  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien's  force, 
the  enemy  not  only  did  not  pursue  the  4th  Division,  but 
did  very  little  even  to  embarrass  the  retreat.  The  1 /Rifle 
Brigade,  the  rear  guard  of  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade, 
and  the  mixed  party  with  it,  finding  the  roads  blocked 
in  every  direction,  bivouacked  at  Selvigny,  within  two 
miles  of  the  battlefield,  and  the  Seaforths  almost  level 
with  them  on  the  east,  at  Hurtevent  Farm.  The  Map  3. 
remainder  were  directed  on  through  Walincourt,  by  way 
of  Malincourt — where  a  divisional  column  of  march  was 
made  up  with  the  artillery — and  Aubencheul,  to  Vendhuille 
(2  miles  north-west  of  Le  Catelet).  Von  Kluck's  shells, 
as  we  have  seen,  followed  the  British  as  long  as  they  were 
within  sight  and  range,  and  caused  a  few  casualties,  though 
not  many  ;  he  also  bombarded  the  evacuated  positions 
with  great  fury  until  dark  ;  but  his  cavalry  and  infantry 
made  no  attempt  to  press  on.  In  fact,  the  whole  of 
Smith-Dorrien's  troops  had  done  what  was  thought  to 

1  The  battery  commander,  Major  H.  E.  Vallentin,  received  the  D.S.O., 
and  two  sergeants  and  five  gunners,  the  D.C.M. 

182        LE  CATEAU  (5  P.M.  TO  NIGHTFALL) 

be  impossible.  With  both  flanks  more  or  less  in  the  air, 
they  had  turned  upon  an  enemy  of  at  least  twice  their 
strength ;  had  struck  him  hard,  and  had  withdrawn,  except 
on  the  right  front  of  the  5th  Division,  practically  without 
interference,  with  neither  flank  enveloped,  having  suffered 
losses  certainly  severe,  but,  considering  the  circumstances, 
by  no  means  extravagant.1  The  men  looked  upon  them- 
selves as  victors,  some  indeed  doubted  whether  they  had 
been  in  a  serious  action  ;  yet  they  had  inflicted  upon  the 
enemy  casualties  which  are  believed  to  have  been  out  of 
all  proportion  to  their  own ;  and  they  had  completely  foiled 
the  plan  of  the  German  commander. 


Maps  3, 9,  Very  little  has  been  published  in  Germany  about  Le 
&  n*  Cateau,  and  there  is  no  official  account  of  the  battle,  as 
there  is  of  Mons  and  Ypres.  The  fighting  on  the  26th 
August  was  at  first  almost  concealed  by  being  included 
in  the  so-called  "  battle  of  St.  Quentin."  There  is  no 
doubt  that  the  enemy  suffered  very  heavy  losses,  and 
for  that  reason  has  said  little  about  it. 

In  the  official  list  of  battles  issued  at  the  end  of  1919, 
it  is  called  "  the  battle  of  Solesmes— Le  Cateau  (25th- 
27th  August  1914),"  and  the  troops  present  are  given  as 
///.  Corps  (5th  and  6th  Divisions),  IV.  Corps  (7th  and 
8th  Divisions),  IV.  Reserve  Corps  (7th  Reserve  and  22nd 
Reserve  Divisions)  and  //.  Cavalry  Corps  (2nd,  Jfli  and  9th 
Cavalry  Divisions),  whilst  the  3rd  Division  of  the  //. 
Corps  is  shown  as  engaged  on  the  26th  at  "  Cambrai." 

The  official  bulletin,  issued  by  the  Supreme  Command 
on  the  28th  August,  runs  as  follows  : 

"  Defeat  of  the  English  at  St.  Quentin.  The  English 
"  Army,2  to  which  three  French  Territorial  divisions3  had 

1  The  total  losses,  after  the  stragglers  had  come  in,  were  7,812  men 
and    38    guns,    including    one    60-pdr.    abandoned    (see    note,    p.  224). 
A  large  proportion  of  these  losses  fell  on  the  4th  Division,, which  had  no 
Field  Ambulances  to  remove  the  wounded. 

General  von  Zwehl  stated  in  the  Militdr  Wochenblatt  of  the  30th 
September  1919  that  the  prisoners  taken,  which  include  wounded,  were 
2,600 ;  and  this  is  confirmed  by  von  Kluck.  The  surprise  of  the  King's 
Own  in  the  early  morning  and  the  capture  of  the  1 /Gordon  Highlanders, 
about  to  be  described,  added  a  considerable  portion  to  the  total  casualties, 
and  might  have  been  avoided. 

2  Only  three  out  of  five  divisions  were  present  at  Le  Cateau. 

3  Only  one  Territorial  division — the  84th — was  present.     The   61st 
and  62nd  Reserve  Divisions  were   west  of  Cambrai,  but  not  engaged 
(see  p.  186). 


"  attached  themselves,  has  been  completely  defeated  north 
"  of  St.  Quentin,  and  is  in  full  retreat  through  St.  Quentin.1 
"  Several  thousand  prisoners,  seven  field  batteries  and  a 
"  heavy  battery  fell  into  our  hands."  2 

The  troops  were  told  that  12,000  prisoners  had  been 

As  already  noticed  in  the  text,4  von  Kluck's  operation 
orders  for  the  26th,  issued  at  Haussy,  three  miles  north  of 
Solesmes,  at  10.50  P.M.  on  the  25th,  merely  give  instructions 
for  a  long  march  in  pursuit,  mainly  in  a  direction  in  which 
there  was  not  much  to  pursue.  His  summary  of  them  runs  : 

"  The  First  Army.,  from  parts  of  which  severe  marches  are 
"  demanded,  will  continue  the  pursuit  of  the  beaten  enemy. 

"  The  //.  Corps  [commencing  on  the  west]  will  march  via 
"  Cambrai  on  Bapaume,  west  of  the  road  Valenciennes — Ven- 
"  degies — Villers  en  Cauchies — Cattenieres,  till  it  is  abreast  of 
"  Graincourt  [5  miles  S.W.  of  Cambrai]. 

"  The  IV.  Reserve  Corps,  starting  early,  via  Vendegies — 
"  Villers  en  Cauchies  to  Cattenieres. 

"  The  IV.  Corps  from  Solesmes  and  Landrecies,  by  two 
"  routes  :  via  Caudry,  and  via  Montay — Caullery — Walincourt, 
"  to  Vendhuille  ;  the  road  Landrecies — Le  Cateau  is  allotted 
"  to  the  ///.  Corps. 

"  The  ///.  Corps  by  the  Landrecies — Le  Cateau  road  to 
"  Maretz. 

"  Orders  will  be  issued  at  Solesmes  at  11  A.M. 

"  The  IX.  Corps  will  cover  the  flank  march  of  the  Army 
"  against  the  west  and  south-west  fronts  of  Maubeuge,  and  will 
"  send  any  troops  not  required  to  follow  the  ///.  Corps  via 
"  Berlaimont — Maroilles  to  Landrecies." 

Although  von  Kluck  has  read  Sir  John  French's  despatch, 
from  which  he  quotes  at  length,  he  is  evidently  even  now 
labouring  under  considerable  misapprehension  as  to  the 
dispositions  of  the  B.E.F.  and  its  movements.  It  is  best 
to  quote  his  narrative  : 

"  In  the  early  morning  Marwitz's  Cavalry  Corps,  via 
"  Wambaix — Beauvois — Quievy,  attacked  the  enemy,  who 
"  was  withdrawing  in  a  westerly  (sic)  direction,  drove  him 
"  partly  back  towards  the  south,  and  held  him  fast  until 
"  the  heads  of  the  army  corps  came  up."  This  account 
hardly  corresponds  with  the  long  pause  in  the  fighting  and 

1  Only  the  5th  Division,  part  of  the  Cavalry,  and  some  stragglers  came 
through  St.  Quentin. 

2  See  footnote  1,  p.  182,  for  the  correct  figures. 

3  Bloem,  p.  183.  4  See  p.  129. 

184        LE  CATEAU  (5  P.M.  TO  NIGHTFALL) 

Captain  Wirth's  story  of  finding  the  regiments  of  the 
Cavalry  Corps  cowering  behind  the  shelter  of  houses.1 

"  The  IV.  Corps  about  8  A.M.  attacked  strong  British 
"  forces  at  Caudry — Troisvilles — Reumont,  and  encoun- 
"  tered  stout  resistance  from  the  enemy,  who  was  well- 
"  established  in  his  position.  The  IV.  Reserve  Corps  was  to 
"  envelop  the  northern  [sic]  and  the  ///.  Corps  the  southern 
"  [sic]  flank  of  the  position.  The  former,  however,  struck 
"  against  the  French  at  Cattenieres ;  the  ///.  Corps, 
"  moving  on  Maretz,  did  not  get  further  than  Honnechy 
"  on  the  26th.  By  evening  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  succeeded 
"  in  driving  its  opponents  back  in  a  southerly  direction 
"  whilst  the  IV.  Corps  overthrew  the  right  wing  of  the 
"  British.  The  //.  Corps  defeated  stronger  French  forces 
"  at  Cambrai."2 

Apparently  von  Kluck  really  thought  that  the  B.E.F. 
was  facing  east,  and  that  if  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  drove 
it  southwards,  i.e.,  off  its  line  of  retreat  to  Calais — Boulogne, 
it  would  endeavour  to  get  away  to  the  west.  This  is 
confirmed  by  the  fact  that  when  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps 
relieved  Marwitz's  Cavalry  Corps,  the  latter  moved  west 
of  Cambrai,  and  on  the  27th  marched  down  the  Cambrai 
— Bapaume  road  to  intercept  any  movement  of  the  B.E.F. 
westwards.  The  //.  Corps  also  pushed  on  west-south- 
west of  Cambrai  on  the  26th,  and  its  Jfih  Division  reached 
Hermies,  half-way  to  Bapaume,  where  it  blocked  any 
escape  to  the  west. 

The  narrative  of  the  battle  ends  with  the  statement, 
which  shows  that  von  Kluck  thought  the  British  I.  Corps 
and  the  6th  Division,  still  in  England,  were  present.  "  The 
"  whole  British  Expeditionary  Corps,  six  divisions,  a 
"  cavalry  division  and  several  French  Territorial  divisions 
"  opposed  the  First  Army.  ...  If  the  English  stand  on 
"  the  27th,  the  double  envelopment  may  yet  bring  a  great 
"  success." 

Von  Kluck  reported  to  the  Supreme  Command  that 
he  had  won  a  victory,  and  not  over  three  divisions  but 
nine,  and  thereby,  it  is  claimed  by  German  writers,  helped 
to  mislead  von  Moltke  as  to  the  real  situation.3 

Relying  on  the  retreat  of  the  British  westward  being 
intercepted  by  Marwitz's  Cavalry  and  the  //.  Corps, 

1  See  footnote  1,  p.  174. 

2  This  is  hardly  the  case.    See  the  action  of  the  French  84th  Territorial 
Division  at  Cambrai,  p.  186. 

3  Tappen,  p.  21.     Kuhl,  "Marne,"  p.  82. 


which  was  to  march  at  1  A.M.,  he  gave  the  remainder  of 
his  force  a  night's  rest.  His  operation  orders,  issued  at 
8.13  P.M.,  directed  the  ///.,  IV.,  and  IV.  Reserve  Corps 
"  to  cross  the  line  roughly  Esnes — Caudry — Reumont  at 
"  4  A.M."  This  was  the  British  battle  front  of  the  previous 
evening,  and  as  the  action  was  broken  off  by  Sir  H.  Smith- 
Dorrien  at  3.30  P.M.  and  all  his  three  divisions  were  on  the 
move  by  5  P.M.,  they  had  nearly  twelve  hours'  start  of 
the  enemy.  Thus  it  was,  the  German  cavalry  having  been 
given  a  wrong  direction,  that  there  was  no  pursuit. 

As  there  is  no  coherent  account  of  the  battle  from  the 
German  side,  the  information  available  with  regard  to 
each  of  the  German  corps  is  given  for  reference  in  a  note 
at  the  end  of  the  chapter.1  The  action  in  reality  took  a 
totally  different  form  to  what  von  Kluck  supposed.  In 
general,  the  IV.  Corps  made  the  principal  attack,  with 
the  //.  Cavalry  Corps  on  its  right,  frontally,  not  against 
a  flank ;  part  of  the  III.  Corps  came  up  on  the  left  of  the 
IV.,  and  in  attempting  envelopment  was  apparently  badly 
mauled ;  at  any  rate,  it  effected  nothing.  In  the  afternoon 
the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  came  up  and  relieved  the  II.  Cavalry 
Corps.  On  its  right  (west)  the  //.  Corps  attacked  the 
French  84th  Territorial  Division  in  Cambrai. 

Apparently  the  German  troops  thought  that  the  battle 
would  be  continued  on  the  27th,  for  Hauptmann  Wirth, 
of  the  7th  Reserve  Divisional  Staff,  expresses  surprise  that 
the  advance  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  met  with  no  opposition 
on  that  day  :  "  the  British  had  left  the  battlefield  during 
"  the  night,  and  had  gone  in  such  haste  that  we  did  not 
"  succeed  in  catching  them  up  again." 


The  part  played  on  the  left  of  the  British  during  the  Maps  3 
battle  of  Le  Cateau  by  three  of  General  d'Amade's  divisions  &  10- 
has  been  generally  overlooked  in  English  accounts.     The 
full  story  of  their  operations  has  yet  to  be  written,  but 
sufficient  is  known  to  make  it  certain  that  they  accounted 
for  the  absence  of  the  German  //.   Corps.      This  corps 
had  been  ordered,  on  the  evening  of  the  24th,  to  make 
a  wide  sweep  to  envelop  the  British  left 2  and,  on  the  25th, 
as  we  have  seen,3  swung  westwards  through  Denain,  and 

1  See  pp.  200-202.  2  Kluck,  p.  53. 

3  See  pp.  130-31. 

186        LE  CATEAU  (5  P.M.  TO  NIGHTFALL) 

arrived  at  night  with  the  heads  of  its  columns  about  nine 
miles  north  of  Cambrai  and  little  more  than  that  distance 
from  the  British  left ;  it  was,  in  fact,  eight  miles  nearer 
to  it  than  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  at  Valenciennes,  which 
attacked  the  British  4th  Division  about  2  P.M.  on  the  26th. 

The  French  84th  Territorial  Division,  which  had  been 
on  the  left  of  the  British  at  Mons,  retreated  with  them, 
and  on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th,  its  rear  guards  were 
opposing  the  passage  of  the  Sensee  Canal  by  the  western 
columns  of  the  German  //.  Corps,  at  Bassin  Rond  and 
Pallencourt,  just  south  of  Bouchain  and  some  six  miles 
north  of  Cambrai. 

During  the  26th  August  the  division  was  gradually 
pushed  back  to  Cambrai,  and  then  westwards  through 
the  town.  To  quote  the  words  of  the  only  available 
account : l 

"  The  defence  of  Cambrai  was  organized  along  its  north- 
"  western  front  from  the  Pont  d'Aire  to  Tilloy  (both  1J 
"  miles  north  of  Cambrai).  .  .  .  The  attack  developed  on 
"  the  morning  of  the  26th  at  Escadoeuvres  (1J  miles  north- 
"  east  of  Cambrai  on  the  Solesmes  road).  The  outpost 
"  battalion  of  the  27th  Territorial  Regiment  fell  back  to 
"  the  '  Pont  Rouge  '  and  the  railway  ;  the  25th  Territorial 
"  Regiment  took  up  a  position  by  the  Schelde  Canal  bridge. 
"  The  final  stand  was  made  in  the  suburb  Saint  Olle  (on 
"  the  western  side  of  Cambrai),  which  the  staff  of  the 
"  84th  Territorial  Division  left  at  12.30  P.M.  Captain 
"  Saglier,  of  the  27th,  defended  the  barricade  near  the 
"  church  till  about  2.15  P.M." 

The  information  with  regard  to  the  French  61st  and 
62nd  Reserve  Divisions  is  less  explicit.2  These  divisions 
were  railed  to  the  front  from  Paris,  and,  on  the  26th 
August,  detrained  at  Arras,  twenty  miles  from  Cambrai. 
General  d' Amade,  whose  headquarters  were  in  Arras,  having 
received  reports  that  columns  of  German  troops  were 
marching  southwards  through  Orchies  towards  Bouchain, 
ordered  the  two  Reserve  divisions  south-east  towards 
Cambrai,  part  of  them  by  train.  They  got  as  near  as 
Marquion,3  six  miles  from  Cambrai,  on  the  afternoon  of 
the  26th,  when  they  received  a  special  order  from  General 
Joffre  ordering  them  to  Combles  and  Peronne  with  a  view 

1  An  article  in  "  La  Renaissance  "  of  25th  November  1916,  quoted  by 
Colonel  Bujac  in  his  book  "  La  Belgique  envahie  "  (Fournier,  Paris  1916). 

2  See  Hanotaux,  vol.  7,  p.  298  ;  and  Palat,  vol.  5,  p.  134. 

3  Ouy-Venazobres,  "  Journal  d'un  officier  de  cavalerie,"  p.  23. 


to   the   formation   of  the   Sixth   Army.     They   therefore  26  Aug. 
turned  westwards  again,  followed  by  the  84th  Territorial    1914- 
Division,  which  was  later  in  action  at  Marquion  with  the 
14th  Pomeranian  Regiment  (4th  Division  of  //.  Corps). 

Von  Kluck's  account  claims *  that  the  //.  Corps  drove 
back  strong  French  hostile  forces  on  the  26th.  But  for 
the  presence  of  the  three  French  Reserve  and  Territorial 
formations  there  seems  no  doubt  that  the  //.  Corps  would 
have  taken  part  at  Le  Cateau  with  both  its  divisions. 


There  can  be  little  doubt  but  that  the  comparative  Maps  2 
ease  with  which  the  first  stages  of  the  retreat  were  ac-  &  n- 
complished  was  due  to  the  tenacity  of  the  units  which, 
having  received  no  order  to  retire,  clung  with  all  their 
strength  to  the  positions  they  had  been  ordered  to  hold.2 
The  story  of  the  Suffolks  and  the  K.O.Y.L.I.  has  already 
,been  related  ;  it  now  remains  to  tell  that  of  the  isolated 
detachments  of  the  3rd  and  4th  Divisions.  Some  time 
after  dark,  firing  having  ceased,  it  became  known  to  Lieut.- 
Colonel  Neish  of  the  Gordons  that  an  order  had  been 
shouted  by  two  staff  officers  to  different  parts  of  the  line 
for  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade  to  retire,  and  that  this  order 
had  reached  every  one  except  the  bulk  of  his  own  regiment, 
the  company  of  the  Royal  Scots  which  lay  on  its  right 
and  two  companies  of  the  Royal  Irish  on  its  left.  At  7.45 
P.M.  Brevet-Colonel  William  Gordon,  V.C.,  of  the  Gordon 
Highlanders,  being  the  senior  officer  in  army  rank,  assumed 
command  of  the  whole  of  these  troops  ;  and  at  9.20  P.M. 
Colonel  Neish  sent  an  officer  and  two  men  to  Troisvilles 
to  obtain  orders,  if  possible,  from  the  headquarters  of 
the  3rd  Division.  This  officer  not  returning  within  the 
allotted  time  of  two  hours — he  had  fallen,  as  a  matter  of 
fact,  into  the  hands  of  the  enemy  at  Troisvilles — Colonel 
Gordon  assembled  his  force  towards  Caudry  at  midnight, 
and  at  12.30  A.M.  marched  off,  quite  undisturbed,  through 
Audencourt  (2  miles  N.N.W.  of  Bertry).  All  was  quiet 
in  the  village,  and  at  1.30  A.M.  the  head  of  the  column 
reached  Montigny  (1J  miles  west  of  Bertry).  Here  a 
light  was  seen  in  a  cottage,  and  the  occupants — a  man 
and  a  woman,  who  were  presumed  to  be  French — reported 
that  early  in  the  morning  the  British  troops  had  moved 

1  Kluck,  p.  59.  2  See  footnote,  p.  190. 

188        LE  CATEAU  (5  P.M.  TO  NIGHTFALL) 

on  Bertry  and  Maurois.  The  man  was  ordered  to  guide 
the  party  through  Montigny  on  to  the  road  to  Bertry, 
which  he  did  ;  and  at  2  A.M.  the  head  of  the  column 
reached  the  cross  roads  to  the  south-west  of  Bertry. 
Here  three  shots  were  fired,  and  after  a  few  minutes' 
delay,  during  which  the  advanced  guard  endeavoured  to 
ascertain  the  nationality  of  the  post,  there  was  a  heavy 
outbreak  of  rifle  fire.  The  men  were  extended,  and 
answered  it.  Orders  were  then  given  for  the  column  to 
move  back  along  the  road  to  Montigny.  But  in  the  dark- 
ness the  road  south-westward  to  Clary  was  taken  instead, 
and  the  column  came  upon  a  field  gun  which  was  trained 
to  fire  down  the  highway.  This  gun  was  rushed  and 
taken  before  it  could  be  discharged,  and  a  mounted  German 
officer  near  it  was  pulled  off  his  horse,  but  the  rear  of  the 
column  was  now  met  by  rifle  fire  from  the  south  and 
south-west.  Once  again  the  men  were  extended  and 
replied,  but  the  fire  from  the  front  and  rear  showed  them 
pretty  clearly  that  they  were  trapped.  The  head  of  the 
column  now  made  an  effort  to  force  its  way  into  Bertry, 
and  stormed  a  house  on  the  outskirts  of  the  village,  in 
which  were  a  number  of  German  officers.  The  enemy, 
however,  was  by  this  time  thoroughly  alarmed.  Firing 
began  on  all  sides,  and  after  fighting  against  hopeless  odds 
for  the  best  part  of  an  hour  longer,  Colonel  Gordon's  party 
was  overpowered.  Its  captors  were  the  66th  and  72nd 
Infantry  Regiments  (IV.  Corps)  which  had  engaged  the 
Suffolks  and  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry  near  Le  Cateau. 
Of  the  Gordon  Highlanders  about  five  hundred  were  taken, 
but  a  few  escaped,  and  a  handful  of  them  actually  made 
their  way  through  the  German  lines  to  Antwerp,  whence 
they  were  sent  back  to  England.  The  fortune  of  war 
was  hard  upon  the  1 /Gordons.  For  the  time,  they  practi- 
cally ceased  to  exist  as  a  battalion,  but  by  their  gallant 
resistance  to  all  German  attacks  between  5  P.M.  and  dark, 
they  had  rendered  incalculable  service  to  the  3rd  Division 
and  to  the  Army  at  large. 

Further  to  the  west,  isolated  parties  of  many  battalions 
were  left  behind  by  the  4th  Division  about  Haucourt  and 
Ligny.  Two  companies  of  the  Dublin  Fusiliers  under 
Major  Shewan,  and  two  of  the  King's  Own  under  Major 
Parker,  holding  fast  to  their  trenches  north  and  east  of 
Haucourt,  were  attacked  soon  after  nightfall,  but  suc- 
ceeded in  beating  the  enemy  off  ;  and  a  party  of  the 
Dublin  Fusiliers,  attracted  by  the  sound  of  the  firing, 


moved  up  in  time  to  shoot  down  a  number  of  the  retreat-  26  Aug. 
ing  Germans.  Major  Shewan,  and  Major  Poole  of  the  1914- 
Warwickshire,  who  had  also  been  left  behind  on  the  east 
of  Haucourt  with  three  to  four  hundred  men  of  his 
regiment,  then  consulted  together  as  to  what  should  be 
done,  since  the  enemy  had  apparently  moved  round  both 
of  their  flanks.  Major  Poole,  being  familiar  with  the 
ground,  undertook  to  lead  the  party  southward  across 
country,  and  at  11  P.M.  the  march  began.  About  the 
same  time  Major  Parker  and  his  party  of  the  King's  Own 
started  southward  independently,  and  succeeded  in  making 
good  their  retreat.  Major  Poole,  steering  for  Selvigny, 
struck  the  village  of  Caullery.  Here  he  was  joined  at  dawn 
of  the  27th  by  another  platoon  of  the  Dublin  Fusiliers 
under  Lieutenant  Massy  -  Westropp,  who  had  retired 
at  dusk  from  his  trenches  in  the  road  between  Ligny 
and  Haucourt  and  finding  his  retreat  threatened  by  a 
party  of  Germans  in  a  farm,  had  promptly  attacked 
them,  driven  them  away  and  gone  on  his  way  unmolested. 
These,  together  with  his  own  party  and  some  of  the  Irish 
Fusiliers  who  were  with  them,  Major  Poole  later  led  on 
in  the  track  of  the  4th  Division.  The  Dublin  Fusiliers, 
however,  lost  touch  of  him  in  the  darkness,  and  drifted  into 
Ligny  at  2  A.M.  on  the  27th,  where  they  made  a  short  halt 
to  find  food.  The  men  dropped  down  on  the  road,  and 
instantly  fell  asleep.  After  a  time,  the  march  was  resumed 
southward  upon  Clary,  but  near  the  entrance  to  the  village 
they  were  fired  on  from  the  east  and,  signalling  to  ascertain 
whether  the  aggressors  were  friend  or  foe  (for  in  the  dim 
light  there  was  abundant  room  for  error),  were  told  to 
join  them  as  quickly  as  possible.  The  column  accordingly 
advanced,  and  was  at  once  swept  by  machine-gun  fire 
from  front  and  flank.  The  men  were  deployed,  and  then 
ordered  to  retire  by  small  groups  mutually  supporting 
each  other.  Eventually,  the  Dublin  Fusiliers  reached 
Ligny  with  about  two  hundred  men,  comprising  soldiers 
from  nearly  every  battalion  of  the  3rd,  4th  and  5th 
Divisions — and  even  two  men  of  the  1st  Division — who  had 
drifted  together  upon  the  nucleus  under  Major  Shewan. 
First  they  struck  out  south-east,  but  finding  Germans  on 
every  side,  turned  north-west,  and  after  many  wanderings 
and  more  than  one  sharp  engagement,  finally — seventy- 
eight  officers  and  men — came  through  the  German  lines 
into  Boulogne.  The  remainder  of  Major  Shewan's  party 
seems  to  have  been  killed  or  taken  to  a  man. 


On  the  whole,  therefore,  it  appears  that  of  three  detach- 
ments which  may  have  numbered  in  all  two  thousand 
men,  about  one  half  escaped  and  rejoined  the  Army 
sooner  or  later.  These  details  may  be  considered  trivial, 
but  they  are  a  testimony  to  the  courage  and  resource  of 
the  officers  and  men  of  the  old  army.  Moreover,  these 
detachments  had  done  far  better  work  than  they  imagined. 
Though  a  mere  handful  scattered  along  some  eight  thousand 
yards  of  front,  they  had  prevented  the  enemy  for  several 
hours  from  advancing  along  the  whole  of  that  line.  The 
perpetual  bombardment  of  vacated  positions,  and  in 
particular  that  of  Audencourt  which  was  repeated  an 
hour  after  dark,  is  plain  evidence  that  the  Germans  were 
exceedingly  suspicious  of  what  might  be  before  them. 
Beyond  question,  they  had  suffered  very  heavily — as 
indeed  was  admitted  by  German  officers  to  some  of  their 
British  prisoners — and  from  one  cause  and  another  they 
were  disinclined  to  take  risks.  That  the  isolation  of  these 
British  detachments  was  undesigned  in  no  way  detracts 
from  the  merit  of  their  achievement.1 


Sketch  3.  While  this  handful  of  men  was  thus  hampering  the 
Maps  3  German  advance,  the  main  body  of  General  Smith-Dorrien's 
force  was  in  full  retreat.  The  5th  Divisional  Train  had 
started  down  the  Roman  Road  very  early  in  the  day,  and 
two  staff  officers  had  accompanied  it  to  keep  it  moving 
all  night,  for  there  was  fear  of  being  overtaken  by  German 
cavalry.  The  3rd  Divisional  Train  had  followed  it,  cutting 
in  on  the  Roman  Road  from  the  north.  Thus  one  serious 
encumbrance  was  removed,  but  the  highway  was,  never- 
theless, choked  for  miles  with  an  interminable  column  of 
transport,  with  the  inevitable  consequence  of  long  blocks 
and  frequent  short  checks.  The  bulk  of  the  5th  Division 
and  of  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade  reached  Estrees  (15 
miles  from  Le  Cateau)  between  9  P.M.  and  midnight,  wet, 
weary,  hungry  and  longing  for  sleep,  and  were  directed  on 

1  Hauptmann  Heubner,  in  his  book  "  Unter  Emmich  vor  Luttich. 
Unter  Kluck  vor  Paris,"  p.  87,  confirms  the  view  stated  of  the  effect  of 
the  parties  left  behind.  His  battalion  of  the  20th  Infantry  Regiment, 
6th  Division,  III.  Corps,  came  On  to  the  field  late.  He  says,  "  in  front  of 
"  us  there  still  swarmed  a  number  of  scattered  English  troops,  who  were 
"  easily  able  to  hide  in  the  large  woods  of  the  district,  and  again  and  again 
"  forced  us  to  waste  time  in  deployments,  as  we  could  not  tell  what  their 
"  strength  might  be." 


to  the  cross  roads,  two  miles  beyond.  There  the  sorting  26  Aug. 
of  the  troops  was  taken  in  hand,  a  simple  process  on  paper,  1914- 
but  difficult  enough  in  practice  on  a  dark  and  dismal 
night :  staff  officers  stood  at  the  cross  roads,  shouting 
continuously,  "  transport  and  mounted  troops  straight  on, 
"  3rd  Division  infantry  to  right,  5th  Division  infantry  to 
"  left."  Then,  when  the  men  turned  as  directed,  they 
were  sorted  by  other  officers  according  to  brigades  and 
battalions.  By  2  A.M.  on  the  27th  sorting  was  completed, 
and  orders  were  issued  for  a  start  at  4  A.M.,  at  which  time 
all  units  of  the  5th  Division  and  the  detachments  from 
other  formations  marched  off  in  good  order;  some  units, 
of  course,  were  very  weak  in  numbers,  as  many  men  had 
not  come  in.  The  transport  and  mounted  troops  were 
sorted  out  south  of  St.  Quentin,  and  there,  well  after  sun- 
rise next  morning,  a  rearrangement  of  the  column  of  the 
5th  Division  was  also  made  ;  but  this  was  a  matter  of 
reorganizing  units,  not  individual  soldiers  as  had  been  the 
case  near  Estrees. 

About  midnight,  the  3rd  Division,  having  marched 
by  Elincourt  and  Malincourt,  came  into  Beaurevoir,  north 
of  the  5th  Division.  The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  with  the 
Bays  (1st  Cavalry  Brigade)  and  4th  Dragoon  Guards 
(2nd  Cavalry  Brigade),  seeing  the  crowd  on  the  Roman 
Road,  retired  east  of  Estrees  to  Brancourt,  Monbrehain 
and  Ramicourt.  The  llth  Hussars  (1st  Cavalry  Brigade) 
came  very  late  into  Estrees.  Half  of  the  9th  Lancers 
(2nd  Cavalry  Brigade)  withdrew  a  little  to  the  south  of 
the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  to  Fresnoy,  the  remainder  having 
marched  with  the  headquarters  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade 
right  across  the  rear  of  the  Army  from  Bohain,  through 
Beaurevoir  to  Marquaix  (11  miles  north-west  of  St.  Quentin). 
Of  the  4th  Division,  the  10th  and  12th  Infantry  Brigades, 
with  the  divisional  artillery,  retreated,  2  J  miles  west  of  the 
3rd  Division,  by  Malincourt  and  Villers  Outreaux  to  Le 
Catelet  and  Vendhuille,  which  were  reached  between  11  P.M. 
and  midnight.  The  llth  Infantry  Brigade,  finding  its  way 
blocked  by  the  3rd  Division  at  Elincourt,  remained  there 
for  the  night. 

Everywhere,  when  the  order  to  halt  was  given,  the 
men  dropped  down  on  the  road,  and  were  asleep  almost 
before  they  reached  the  ground.  The  only  precautions 
possible  at  the  late  hour  were  to  push  small  piquets  out 
a  few  hundred  yards  on  each  side  of  the  road.  Officers 
of  the  cavalry  and  artillery,  themselves  half  dead  with 


fatigue,  had  to  rouse  their  men  from  a  semi-comatose 
state  to  water  and  feed  the  horses,  and  to  rouse  them 
once  more  to  take  the  nose-bags  off,  taking  care  lest  they 
should  fall  asleep  in  the  very  act.  And  all  this  had  to 
be  done  in  inky  darkness  under  drizzling  rain.  After 
three  or  four  hours'  halt,  the  order  was  given  to  resume 
the  march.  The  officers  roused  the  sergeants,  and  the 
men  were  hunted  out,  hustled  on  to  their  feet,  hardly 
conscious  of  what  they  were  doing,  and  by  some  means 
or  other  formed  into  a  column.  Then  the  column  got 
under  way,  drivers  and  troopers  sleeping  in  their  saddles, 
infantry  staggering  half -asleep  as  they  marched,  every 
man  stiff  with  cold  and  weak  with  hunger,  but,  under 
the  miraculous  power  of  discipline,  plodding  on. 

Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien  on  arrival  at  St.  Quentin 
on  the  evening  of  the  26th  found  that  G.H.Q.  had  left 
for  Noyon.  After  sending  off  a  report  of  the  situation 
in  writing,  he  proceeded  there  himself  by  motor  car,  to 
give  personally  to  the  Commander-in-Chief  an  account  of 
the  action  and  its  successful  breaking  off.  He  arrived 
shortly  after  midnight  and  was  informed  that  the  orders, 
issued  by  G.H.Q.  in  the  afternoon  of  the  26th,  for  the 
retirement  to  the  St.  Quentin  (Crozat)  Canal  —  Somme 
line  (La  Fere  —  Ham)  still  held  good.  Earlier  in  the 
day,  before  Sir  John  French  had  quitted  St.  Quentin, 
General  Joffre  and  General  Lanrezac  had  visited  him  for 
a  conference.  Sir  John  pointed  out  the  isolated  position 
of  the  British  Army,  as  he  conceived  it,  and  the  French 
Commander-in-Chief  had  confirmed  the  "directive"  already 
sent  to  British  G.H.Q.  In  this  he  had  stated  his  intention 
of  withdrawing  to  the  Laon — La  Fere — St.  Quentin 
position,  and  subsequently  retaking  the  offensive,  as  soon 
as  a  new  Army,  the  Sixth,  could  be  formed  on  the  left 
of  the  British.  His  main  interest  was  that,  in  spite  of 
the  heavy  losses  they  had  suffered,  the  British  should 
not  fall  out  of  the  line.  The  Field-Marshal  agreed  to 
make  his  retirement  as  deliberately  as  possible.  . 

Thus  posted  in  the  general  situation,  Sir  H.  Smith- 
Dorrien  returned  to  his  Headquarters  at  St.  Quentin. 
Under  his  instructions,  the  5th  Division  and  the  19th 
Infantry  Brigade  were  intercepted  at  Bellenglise  and 
turned  south-eastward  upon  St.  Quentin,  where  supplies 
awaited  them,  with  directions  to  march  thence  upon 
Ollezy  (4  miles  east  of  Ham).  The  3rd  Division  was 
to  continue  its  march  from  Bellicourt  and  Hargicourt 


upon    Vermand,    heading    for    Ham.     Unfortunately    its  27  Aug. 
supply  column  had  missed  it  and  it  was  without  rations    1914- 
from  the  25th  until  the  afternoon  of  the  27th.     The  4th 
Division   was  to   proceed  via  Roisel,  Hancourt,   Monchy 
Lagache  to  Voyennes  (4  miles  west  of  Ham),  picking  up 
supplies  en  routed 


Very  soon  after  daylight  on  the  27th  August,  troops  Sketch  3. 
began  to  pour  into  St.  Quentin.     The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  ^Ps  3»  4 
and  most  of  the  2nd  were  fed  and  sent  a  few  miles  south 
to  Grand  Seraucourt,  where  they  arrived,  men  and  horses 
completely  exhausted.     The  duty  of  forming  a  covering 
screen  to  the  north  of  the  town  was  therefore  assigned  to 
the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  which,  together  with  the  Com- 
posite  Regiment  of  Household   Cavalry,   had   reached   a 
position  at  Homblieres  just  to  the  east  of  St.  Quentin  at 
4  A.M. 

At  5  A.M.  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade  trudged  into  the 
town,  received  its  rations  and  re-formed  its  battalions. 
Trains  had  already  been  ordered  on  the  railway,  as  well 
as  carts  and  wagons  on  the  roads,  for  the  conveyance  of 
men  who  could  march  no  further.  The  remainder  of  the 
5th  Division  came  in  later,  when  the  sun  of  a  scorching 
day  was  already  high  in  the  heavens.  Stragglers  and  parties 
from  the  3rd  and  4th  Divisions  who  had  drifted  eastward — 
no  doubt  because  the  retirement  had  been  commenced  on 
the  right — ,  contributed  to  an  appearance  of  confusion 
which  was  completely  absent  on  the  routes  of  those 
divisions  themselves  and  of  the  battalions  of  the  5th 
Division,  which  marched  into  the  town  as  properly  formed 
bodies.  After  a  halt  of  an  hour  or  two  for  rest  and  food, 
the  men  recovered  in  an  astonishing  fashion  ;  and  when 
they  resumed  their  march,  they  were  no  longer  silent  and 
dogged,  but  cheerfully  whistling  and  singing.  The  5th 
Division  then  pursued  its  way,  after  a  halt  for  the  re-arrange- 
ment of  the  column,  without  any  interference  from  the 
enemy,  and  before  dark  was  in  position  south  of  the  Somme 

1  An  extract  from  the  war  diary  of  a  unit  of  the  French  1st  Cavalry 
Division  of  this  date  deserves  quotation  : 

"  We  crossed  the  route  of  an  English  battalion  retiring  after  having 
"  suffered  very  heavy  losses.  It  moved  in  touching  order  :  at  the  head, 
"  imperturbable,  a  party  of  wounded.  I  ordered  a  salute  to  be  given  to 
"  these  brave  men." 

VOL.  I  O 


about  Ollezy,  with  its  ranks  sadly  thinned,  but  ready  again 
to  meet  the  enemy. 

The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  acting  as  rear  guard,  was 
equally  unmolested.  It  was  joined  at  10  A.M.  by  that  part 
of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  which  had  marched  westward 
across  the  rear  of  the  army  on  the  26th  and  retraced  its 
steps  eastward  at  dawn  on  the  27th.  Not  until  2.30  P.M. 
was  there  any  sign  of  the  enemy  advancing  south  in  this 
quarter,1  and  then  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  fell  back 
deliberately  to  Itancourt  (4  miles  south-east  of  St. 
Quentin),  E  Battery  exchanging  a  few  rounds  with  the 
German  guns  before  it  retired.  West  of  St.  Quentin  the 
9th  Lancers  (2nd  Cavalry  Brigade)  found  contact  with  the 
enemy  near  Fresnoy,  but  did  not  withdraw  from  that 
place  until  6  P.M.  and  then  only  to  Savy  (south-west  of  St. 
Quentin).  There  they  and  the  greater  part  of  the  2nd 
Cavalry  Brigade  took  up  their  billets  for  the  night,  the 
3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  being  on  their  right  at  Itancourt,  and 
the  1st  in  support  at  Grand  Seraucourt. 

Further  to  the  west,  the  3rd  Division  was  hardly  more 
molested  than  the  5th.  After  turning  west  from  Belli- 
court  (8  miles  north  by  west  of  St.  Quentin),  it  halted 
from  9  A.M.  until  1  P.M.  at  Hargicourt,  and  then  continued 
its  way  south  to  Villeret  (2  miles  south-west  of  Belli- 
court).  There  a  small  party  of  German  cavalry,  accom- 
panied by  guns,  made  some  demonstration  of  pursuit,  but 
speedily  retired  when  greeted  by  a  few  rifle  bullets  from 
109th  Battery,  having  no  wish  to  engage  what  seemed  to 
be  British  infantry.  The  division  next  marched  to  Ver- 
mand,  where  supplies  were  issued  about  4  P.M.,  and  at  10 
P.M.  it  resumed  its  march  to  Ham.  The  9th  Infantry 
Brigade  acted  as  rear  guard  throughout,  having  suffered 
little  in  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau. 

The  4th  Division  on  the  left  was  followed  up  rather 
more  closely  by  the  German  cavalry.  The  llth  Infantry 
Brigade,  from  Serain,  moved  across  country  to  Nauroy, 
just  to  the  south-east  of  Bellicourt,  on  the  morning  of  the 
27th,  and  halted  there  at  8.30  A.M.  to  allow  the  3rd  Division 
to  pass.  Rather  more  than  an  hour  later  the  Corps 
Cavalry  of  the  II.  Corps  reported  the  enemy's  presence  in 
the  adjacent  villages  ;  and  before  the  brigade  had  left  its 
billets,  German  guns  opened  on  Nauroy  at  a  range  of  a 
thousand  yards.  To  cover  the  retirement  of  the  brigade, 

1  The  enemy  seen,  according  to  Billow's   Sketch  Map  2,   was  divi- 
sional cavalry  of  the  VII.  Corps,  the  right  of  his  Army. 


the  brigadier  ordered  Colonel  Jackson  of  the  Hampshire  27  Aug. 
to  engage  the  guns.  Acting  on  these  orders,  the  latter  1914< 
sent  two  parties  to  take  up  a  position  to  the  east  of  Nauroy 
and  open  fire  on  them.  After  an  engagement  with  enemy's 
dismounted  cavalry  and  cyclists,  Colonel  Jackson  was 
wounded  and  taken  prisoner,  but  his  men  stood  fast  until 
the  retiring  brigade  was  out  of  sight,  and  then  withdrew, 
eventually  rejoining  the  brigade  on  the  high  ground  beyond 
the  canal.  The  main  body  meanwhile  had  moved  south- 
west to  Villeret,  picking  up  en  route  Major  Prowse's  party 
of  the  Somerset  L.I.  from  Ligny,  a  party  of  the  I/Rifle 
Brigade  under  Captain  Prittie,  and  other  men  who  had 
stayed  late  on  the  battlefield.  Thence  the  llth  Infantry 
Brigade,  "fairly  all  right "  as  it  reported,  marched  through 
Tertry,  where  it  struck  the  divisional  route  to  Voyennes. 

The  10th  Infantry  Brigade  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigade 
(in  touch  with  General  Sordet's  cavalry  on  the  left)  had 
meanwhile  passed  on  to  Roisel  (8  miles  south-west  of 
Le  Catelet),  where  both  made  a  short  halt ;  the  12th 
Infantry  Brigade,  which  had  gone  on  with  the  4th  Divi- 
sional Artillery,  deployed  at  Ronssoy  (4  miles  south- 
west of  Le  Catelet),  with  the  Carabiniers  at  Lempire  to 
cover  it,  as  there  were  indications,  from  German  aero- 
planes flying  over  the  division  and  the  appearance  of  a 
few  cavalry  scouts,  that  the  enemy  might  be  in  close 
pursuit.  Nothing,  however,  happened.  The  10th  Infantry 
Brigade  then  pursued  its  way  to  Hancourt,  where  it  arrived 
at  4  P.M.  The  12th  Infantry  Brigade  retired  from  Ronssoy 
at  11  A.M.,  and  reached  Hancourt  between  5.30  and  6  P.M., 
where  Major  Parker's  party  of  the  King's  Own  overtook 
it.  At  Hancourt,  by  divisional  orders,  these  two  brigades 
entrenched  and  rested,  awaiting  the  enemy;  but  none 
appeared.  At  9.30  P.M.  (all  wounded  and  transport, 
which  included  many  requisitioned  and  country  wagons, 
having  been  sent  off  two  hours  earlier)  the  march  of  the 
4th  Division  was  resumed  in  inky  darkness  by  Vraignes, 
Monchy  Lagache,  and  Matigny  upon  Voyennes.  There 
was  not  the  slightest  hindrance  from  the  enemy,  but  men 
and  horses  were  so  utterly  weary  that  the  usual  hourly 
halts  were  omitted  for  fear  that  if  the  whole  division  were 
once  halted  and  the  men  sat  or  lay  down,  they  would  never 
be  got  moving  again. 

The  stoppages  and  checks  inseparable  from  the  march 
of  a  long  column  in  the  dark  were  doubly  nerve-racking  to 
the  Staff  during  this  period  ;  for  not  only  might  they  mean 


that  the  division  would  be  delayed  and  have  incredible 
difficulty  in  restarting — as  men  were  lying  on  the  roads 
careless  of  whether  wheels  went  over  them  or  not — but  also 
that  enemy  cavalry  had  cut  in  ahead  or  on  the  flank  of  the 
column.  With  strained  ears  the  officers  listened  for  firing, 
and  only  breathed  again  when  the  tremor  of  movement 
crept  down  the  column,  and  they  heard  the  glad  sound  of 
the  crunch  of  wheels  on  the  road.  Such  was  the  discipline, 
however,  that  not  a  single  shot  was  fired  in  alarm  during 
this  and  the  many  other  nights  of  marching  in  August  and 
September  1914.  Parties  sent  on  ahead  blocked  all  side 
and  cross  roads,  so  that  units,  even  if  gaps  in  the  column 
occurred,  could  not  go  astray.  Measures  were  taken  by 
the  interpreters  l  in  all  the  villages  passed  through  to 
detect  the  presence  of  spies,  generally  by  the  simple  pro- 
cess of  a  language  test.  But  for  this  precaution  and  the 
difficulties  of  adjusting  the  foreign  harness  of  the  requisi- 
tioned vehicles,  officers  and  men  for  the  most  part  might 
have  dreamed  as  they  mechanically  moved  on  that  they 
were  back  at  autumn  manoeuvres. 

The  Carabiniers  remained  in  position  about  Lempire  till 
noon,  by  which  time  German  infantry  came  into  sight ; 
but,  though  heavily  shelled,  the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade  with- 
drew unharmed  to  Hesbecourt,  and  after  waiting  there  till 
2.30  P.M.  fell  back  westwards  in  rear  of  the  4th  Division  by 
B ernes,  Hancourt  and  Cartigny  to  Le  Mesnil,  thence  going 
south,  finally  crossing  the  Somme  after  nightfall  and 
reaching  Rouy,  near  Voyennes,  at  1  A.M.  on  the  28th.  The 
4th  Division,  three  hours  later — at  4  A.M. — began  passing 
the  Somme  valley  into  Voyennes,  at  the  very  spot  where 
Henry  V.  had  crossed  the  river  in  his  retreat  northwards 
on  Agincourt.  At  Voyennes  Brigadier-General  Hunter- 
Weston  with  the  main  body  of  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade 

Thus  by  dawn  on  the  28th,  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien 
had  practically  brought  the  whole  of  his  force  to  the  south  of 
the  Somme,  thirty-five  miles  from  the  battlefield  of  the  26th. 

The  position  of  the  various  formations  was  approxi- 
mately as  follows  : — 

Sketch  3.  1st,  2nd  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  : 

Maps  3  In  a  semi-circle,  four  miles  south  of  St.  Quentin,   from 

&  13-  Itancourt,  through  Urvillers  and  Grand  Seraucourt  to 


1  A  French  officer  or  soldier  was  allotted  to  each  Staff  and  unit  as 
interpreter  and  go-between  in  business  with  the  local  officials. 


The  remainder  of  the  force  was  south  of  the  Somme,  28  Aug. 
with  rear  guards  on  the  northern  bank.  1914. 

5th  Division  and  19th  Infantry  Brigade  : 

South-west  of  the  cavalry  brigades,  at  Ollezy  and  Eaucourt, 
near  where  the  Crozat  canal  meets  the  Somme. 
3rd  Division  : 

On  the  left  of  the  5th  : 

7th  Infantry  Brigade — Ham,  on  the  Somme. 
8th  Infantry  Brigade — On  march  to  Ham  from  Vermand. 
9th  Infantry  Brigade — Ham. 
4th  Division  : 

On  the  left  of  the  3rd,  at  Voyennes  on  the  Somme. 
4th  Cavalry  Brigade  : 

On  the  left  of  the  4th  Division,  at  Rouy. 

I.  Corps  and  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  were  18  miles  to  the  north- 
eastward of  the  II.  Corps,  on  the  high  ground  south  of 
Guise.  Their  movements  will  be  dealt  with  in  the  next 

It  was  tolerably  evident  that  the  German  pursuit,  if  it 
can  be  said  ever  to  have  been  seriously  begun,  had  been 
shaken  off.  There  were,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  already  some 
indications  that  von  Kluck  was  pressing  south-westward 
rather  than  southward.  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps 
and  the  61st  and  62nd  Reserve  Divisions  had  been  in 
conflict  with  German  troops  about  Peronne  on  the  after- 
noon of  the  27th  ;  and  British  cavalry  entering  St.  Quentin 
at  dawn  on  the  28th  found  no  sign  of  the  enemy.  These 
indications,  however,  came  too  late  to  be  of  any  help  to 
the  British  Commander-in-Chief  on  the  27th.  As  regards 
the  German  //.  Corps,  the  most  westerly  of  von  Kluck's 
Army,  the  reports  of  air  reconnaissances  in  the  early 
morning,  taken  in  conjunction  with  General  Smith- 
Dorrien's  verbal  report  at  midnight  on  the  26th/27th  after 
the  battle  of  Le  Cateau,  were  reassuring.  The  road  from 
Le  Cateau  was  absolutely  clear ;  there  were  neither 
British  rear  guards  nor  German  advanced  guards'  to  be 
seen  south  of  a  line  drawn  east  and  west  through  Peronne. 
But,  further  east,  a  heavy  column1  had  been  observed 
moving  southward  on  the  road  between  La  Groise  and 
fitreux  (12  and  6  miles,  respectively,  north  of  Guise), 
besides  other  troops  at  Le  Nouvion  (10  miles  north-east 
of  Guise) ;  and  Sir  John  French  had  as  yet  no  clear  informa- 
tion to  show  whether  these  were  friendly  or  hostile.  General 
Joffre,  who  visited  him  at  Noyon  at  11  A.M.  on  the  27th, 

1  Von  Billow's  X.  Reserve  Corps. 


was  already  preparing  his  counter-stroke,  but,  in  order  to 
effect  it,  needed  to  fall  back  further  than  he  had  first 
intended,  to  a  line  from  Rheims  to  Amiens,  of  which 
he  proposed  that  the  British  should  occupy  the  section 
between  Noyon  and  Roye  (12  miles  north-west  of  Noyon). 
Maps  3  In  furtherance  of  this  plan,  Sir  J.  French,  in  a  message 
&4-  timed  8.30  P.M.,  directed  the  II.  Corps,  with  the  19th 
Infantry  Brigade,  to  be  clear  of  Ham  by  daylight  on  the 
28th,  to  march  to  Noyon  and  cross  to  the  left  bank  of  the 
Oise ;  the  4th  Division  to  cover  the  retirement  from 
ground  north  of  the  Somme  ;  and  the  Cavalry  Division 
to  cover  both  the  II.  Corps  and  the  4th  Division.  He 
added  an  order  that  all  unnecessary  impedimenta  and  all 
ammunition  not  absolutely  required  should  be  thrown 
away,  so  that  vehicles  might  be  available  to  carry 
exhausted  men.1 

Sketch  3.  After  the  superhuman  efforts  of  the  previous  days,  this 
Maps  3  further  retreat  with  hardly  a  moment's  rest  was  a  very 
&  13*  serious  trial  to  the  II.  Corps,  for  many  of  its  units  were  still 
on  the  march  when  the  orders  to  continue  reached  them. 
At  4  A.M.  on  the  28th  the  5th  Division  marched  from  Ollezy 
for  Noyon,  with  frequent  halts,  for  the  day  was  oppressively 
hot.  As  many  men  as  possible  were  carried  on  vehicles  of 
one  kind  or  another.  The  52nd  Battery  of  the  XV. 
Brigade,  far  from  being  demoralized  by  the  loss  of  all  its 
guns,  had  already  been  formed  into  a  corps  of  mounted 
rifles.  On  its  way  it  passed  Sir  J.  French  himself,  who 
praised  its  good  work  and  assured  it  that  it  had  not 
been  done  in  vain,  since  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau  had  saved 
the  left  flank  of  the  French  Army.2  After  a  short  halt  at 
Noyon,  the  5th  Division  moved  on  to  Pontoise,  and  there 
at  last  went  into  billets.  The  3rd  Division  followed,  halting 
at  Crissolles  and  Genvry,  just  short  of  Noyon,  between  6 
and  7  P.M.  Physically  it  was  nearly  worn  out  after  march- 
ing sixty-eight  miles  in  fifty  hours,  but  morally  its  spirit 
was  unbroken.  Last  came  the  4th  Division,  not  less 
exhausted  than  the  rest.  At  4  A.M.  the  division  had 
received  G.H.Q.  orders,  issued  at  8.30  P.M.  the  previous 
evening,  to  occupy  a  position  north  of  the  Somme  ;  whilst 
preparations  to  do  so  were  being  made,  later  orders  arrived 
about  6  A.M.  directing  it  to  be  ready  to  continue  the  retire- 
ment at  8  A.M.  Leaving  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade  for  a 
time  on  the  northern  bank  to  work  in  combination  with 
the  rear  guard  of  the  3rd  Division,  the  remainder  of  the 
1  Appendix  17.  2  See  General  Joffre's  message  at  end  of  Chapter. 


division,   which   still   consisted   of  artillery   and   infantry  28  Aug. 
only,  took  up  positions  on  the  south  bank  of  the  Somme.    1914- 
The  retirement  was  continued  at  1.30  P.M.,  the  3rd  Division 
having  withdrawn  its  rear  guard  from  Ham  about  an  hour 
earlier.     The    4th    Division    reached    its    halting  -  places, 
Bussy,  Freniches  and  Campagne,  just  north  of  those  of 
the  3rd  Division,  shortly  before  midnight. 

Meanwhile,  of  the  Cavalry  Division,  the  3rd  Brigade 
had  extended  eastward,  seeking  touch  with  the  I.  Corps, 
and  its  movements  will  be  related  in  due  course  with  those 
of  that  corps.  The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade,  after  completing 
its  reconnaissance  at  St.  Quentin,  fell  back  with  great 
deliberation  to  the  Somme  at  Ham,  whence,  having  crossed 
the  river,  it  moved  southwards  to  Berlancourt.  The  2nd 
Cavalry  Brigade  likewise  fell  back  by  Douilly  upon  Ham, 
and  halted  just  north-east  of  the  4th  Division  at  Le  Plessis 
and  Flavy  le  Meldeux.  Patrols  of  German  cavalry  had 
been  seen  at  Douilly,  but  no  force  of  greater  importance. 
The  4th  Cavalry  Brigade,  on  the  extreme  left,  withdrew 
shortly  before  noon  to  Cressy,  a  short  distance  south  of 
Nesle  and  four  miles  north  of  the  4th  Division,  leaving 
French  cavalry  and  guns,  with  which  it  had  been  in  touch, 
to  deal  with  enemy  troops  reported  to  be  at  Mesnil  just 
north  of  Nesle. 

The  worst  trials  of  General  Smith-Dorrien's  force  were 
now  over.  Since  the  23rd  August,  the  II.  Corps  had 
fought  two  general  actions,  besides  several  minor  affairs, 
and  had  marched  seventy-five  miles,  measured  on  the  map 
by  the  route  taken  by  the  3rd  Division. 

NOTE  1 


Dated  27th  August  1914. 

Commandant  en  Chef  des  Armees  Frangaises  a  Commandant 
en  Chef  Armee  Anglaise  Noyon  Oise.  No.  2425. 

L'Armee  anglaise  en  n'hesitant  pas  a  s'engager  tout  entiere 
centre  des  forces  tres  superieures  en  nombre  a  puissamment  con- 
tribue  a  assurer  la  securite  du  flanc  gauche  de  1'Armee  Frangaise. 
Elle  1'a  fait  avec  un  devouement,  une  energie  et  une  perseverance 
auxquels  je  tiens  des  maintenant  a  rendre  hommage  et  qui  se  re- 
trouveront  demain  pour  assurer  le  triomphe  final  de  la  cause  com- 
mune. L'Armee  Fran£aise  n'oubliera  pas  le  service  rendu  ;  animee 
du  meme  esprit  de  sacrifice  et  de  la  meme  volonte  de  vaincre  que 
1'Armee  Anglaise,  elle  lui  affirmera  sa  reconnaissance,  dans  les 
prochains  combats.  JOFFRE. 

200  LE  CATEAU 

NOTE  2 


IV.  Corps. 

According  to  Oberleutnant  Dr.  Lohrisch,1  the  time  of  the  principal 
attack  of  the  IV.  Corps  on  the  high  ground  west  of  Le  Cateau  was 
"  nearly  midday  "  (English  time  11  A.M.),  but  our  accounts  make 
it  a  little  earlier.  His  brigade,  the  14th  of  the  7th  Division,  attacked 
on  both  sides  of  the  Forest — Le  Cateau  road,  and  the  13th  Brigade 
on  both  sides  of  the  Forest — Montay  road,  as  already  pointed  out, 
with  the  8th  Division,  from  Solesmes,  further  west,  near  Caudry. 
It  would  seem  that  there  was  a  considerable  gap  between  the  7th 
and  8th  Divisions,  which  accounts  for  the  13th,  15th  and  9th  British 
Infantry  Brigades  being  left  in  comparative  peace  most  of  the 
morning.2  Soon  after,  the  14th  Brigade  was  ordered  "  to  move  to 
"  the  left  and  make  an  enveloping  attack  against  the  enemy's  right 
"  flank." 

As  the  brigade  moved  round  the  east  of  Le  Cateau,  it  "  brushed 
"  against  the  right  flank  of  the  neighbouring  corps  [the  III.],  which 
"  had  pressed  on  even  farther  than  ourselves."  He  goes  on  to  state 
that  there  was  delay  owing  to  the  river  Selle  being  unfordable. 
"  Meantime,  the  noise  of  battle  had  diminished,  the  enemy  had 
"  realized  the  danger  of  envelopment  and  had  evacuated  the  ridge." 
So  the  companies  "  lay  down  by  the  roadside  and  awaited  orders." 
At  4  P.M.  they  got  an  order  to  pursue.  They  were  then  fired  on 
from  Honnechy,  and  deployed,  but  as  the  ///.  Corps  was  coming 
up  "  from  the  south  "  [sic]  at  7  P.M.  they  went  into  bivouac  west 
of  St.  Benin. 

Von  Kluck  states  that  the  "  fighting  was  hottest  in  the  area 
"  where  the  8th  Division  was  engaged,"  that  is,  near  Inchy — Caudry, 
where  the  British  8th  and  7th  Infantry  Brigades  stood.  This  is 
hardly  borne  out  by  our  own  accounts. 

III.  Corps. 

Both  divisions  of  this  corps  pushed  their  advanced  guards  to 
the  eastern  edge  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal,  to  Maroilles  and  Aulnoye, 
on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th.3 

About  11  A.M.  on  the  26th,  the  commander,  General  von  Lochow, 
came  upon  the  field  and  offered  General  Sixt  von  Armin,  command- 
ing the  IV.  Corps,  his  assistance.  The  latter  considered  that  direct 
support  was  not  necessary,  and  that  the  III.  Corps  could  help  best 
by  continuing  its  advance  as  originally  ordered  via  Le, Cateau  on 
Maretz.  The  III.  Corps,  therefore,  marched  on  through  Land- 
recies  ;  but  "  its  two  divisions  being  on  one  road,  one  behind  the 
"  other,  the  advance  and  deployment  took  up  so  much  time  that  it 
"  was  very  late  before  they  attacked  on  the  left  flank  of  the  Army."  4 

Doubt  has  been  thrown  on  this  account  by  information  obtained 

1  In  "  Siegessturm  von  Liittich  an  die  Marne." 

2  See  p.  153. 

3  See  p.  131,  and  footnote  1,  p.  141. 

4  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  79. 


from  Berlin  ;   this  is  as  follows : — "  On  the  26th  August,  the  5th  26  Aug. 
4  Division  (whose  head  was  near  Maroilles)  marched  on  Maurois  via    1914. 
4  Carrefour  de  1'Ermitage  (inside  the  Forest  of  Mormal,  3  miles 
4  north-west  of  Maroilles) — Rouge  Mer  (inside  the  Forest,  1|  miles 
'  north-west   of   Landrecies) — Landrecies — Pommereuil  (south) — 
*  Bazuel — St.  Benin.     6th  Division  (which  had  one  half  west  and 
4  the  other  east  of  the  Forest)  marched  via  Jolimetz  (bringing  its 
'  eastern  half  back  through  the  Forest  of  Mormal)  into  the  area 
'  Forest — Boussies — Englefontaine — Vendegies     an     Bois.      This 
'  division  did  not  go  into  battle  on  the  26th  August." 

It  has  been  noticed,  under  the  IV.  Corps,  that  the  14th  Brigade 
in  its  enveloping  attack  brushed  against  the  flank  of  the  ///.  Corps 
44  which  had  pressed  on  even  farther."  Why  the  5th  Division  did  so 
little  is  something  of  a  mystery  ;  it  undoubtedly  lost  heavily,  both 
when  in  column  on  the  road,  and  in  its  attempted  flank  attack,  from 
the  fire  of  the  Heavy  Battery  of  the  5th  Division.  Why  the  6th 
Division,  whose  head  was  at  Jolimetz,  only  9  miles  from  Le  Cateau 
town,  on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th  took  no  part  in  the  fight  will 
no  doubt  be  explained  later.  Possibly  it  marched  eastward  as  von 
Kuhl  seems  to  indicate  and  then  back  again  through  the  Forest. 
The  history  of  the  24th  (Brandenburg)  Infantry  Regiment,  the  only 
unit  of  the  6th  Division  that  has  yet  published  one,  has  no  entry 
between  the  crossing  of  the  French  Frontier  in  the  afternoon  of 
the  25th  August  and  10  A.M.  on  the  28th. 

IV.  Reserve  Corps. 

There  is  a  better  account  of  the  doings  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps. 
Captain  Wirth,  attached  to  a  Divisional  Staff  (his  unit  and  a  regiment 
mentioned  identify  it  as  the  7th  Reserve)  states  that  the  corps  left 
Valenciennes  early  and  marched  south-westward.  At  11  A.M.  news 
arrived  that  the  cavalry  in  front  was  engaged.  The  troops  left 
the  road  and  marched  along  bridle-tracks  and  across  fields  to  the 
sound  of  the  guns.  About  2  P.M.  the  advanced  guard  reached  the 
Le  Cateau — Cambrai  high  road  north  of  Cattenieres,  and  found 
the  cavalry,  44  which  has  been  thrown  on  the  defensive,"  under 
cover  behind  the  houses.  The  divisional  artillery  had  been  sent 
forward  and  was  already  in  position.  The  division  attacked  towards 
Caudry — Wambaix.  Little  progress  was  made  against  the  4th 
Division — some  infantry,  however,  reached  Haucourt.  The  Staff 
billeted  for  the  night  in  Wambaix. 

The  other  division  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps,  the  22nd,  advanced 
(according  to  a  letter  in  the  series  "  Feldpostbriefen,"  vol.  5)  on  the 
right  wing  of  the  corps,  and  deployed  about  2  P.M.  north  of  the 
Le  Cateau — Cambrai  road  about  Carnieres — Cauroir,  and  advanced 
in  the  first  instance  against  French  cuirassiers,  and  then  against 
French  infantry  near  Seranvillers.  The  division  met  with  con- 
siderable opposition,  and  was  heavily  shelled  by  French  and  British 
artillery.  There  were  fairly  heavy  casualties — the  writer's  platoon 
lost  37  men.  The  French  retired  under  cover  of  darkness.  His 
regiment  bivouacked  at  Crevecceur. 

From  Valenciennes  to  the  battlefield  (Cattenieres)  via  Solesmes 
is  twenty  miles.  If  the  divisions  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps,  which 
as  far  as  Solesmes  were  apparently  on  one  road,  started  at  3  A.M., 
the  usual  hour,  the  advanced  guard  took  eleven  hours  to  cover  the 
distance,  a  somewhat  mediocre  performance. 

202  LE  CATEAU 

II.  Corps. 

The  heads  of  the  two  divisions  reached  Avesnes  le  Sec  and 
Bouchain,  9  miles  from  Cambrai,  on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th. 

The  official  "  Schlachten  und  Gefechte "  states  that  the  3rd 
Division  was  engaged  at  Cambrai  on  the  26th.  The  4th  Division 
is  known  by  contact  with  the  French  to  have  been  west  of  Cambrai. 
At  night  it  reached  Hermies,  10  miles  south-west  of  Cambrai.  No 
doubt  von  der  Marwitz's  Cavalry  Corps,  having  gone  eastwards, 
the  4th  Division  was  acting  as  flank  guard  and  watching  the  French 
61st  and  62nd  Reserve  Divisions,  which  were  west  of  Cambrai,1 
whilst  the  3rd  attacked  Cambrai  ;  the  corps  was  later  pushed  on  to 
intercept  the  British  retreat  westwards.  The  headquarters  of  the 
corps  at  night  were  at  Pallencourt,  five  miles  north  of  Cambrai. 

//.  Cavalry  Corps  (von  der  Marwitz). 

This  corps  spent  the  night  of  the  25th/26th  August  in  villages 
around  Avesnes  lez  Aubert  (6  miles  N.N.E.  of  Cambrai).  Its 
orders  for  the  26th  were  to  continue  the  pursuit  due  south  "  against 
"  the  great  Roman  Road  Bavai — Maretz — Nauroy."  2 

44  2nd  Cavalry  Division,  with  the  4th  and  7th  Jager,  via  Carnieres 
44  and  Esnes  against  Beaurevoir. 

"  9th  Cavalry  Division,  with  the  3rd,  9th  and  10th  Jager,  via 
44  Beauvois  against  Fremont. 

44  4th  Cavalry  Division  via  Caudry  against  Maretz." 

Thus,  the  "2nd  Cavalry  Division,  with  two  Jager  battalions, 
struck  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade  ;  the  one  brigade  of  the  9th 
Cavalry  Division  and  three  Jager  battalions,  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade, 
and  the  4th  Cavalry  Division,  with  the  two  brigades  of  the  9th,  the 
7th  Infantry  Brigade. 

After  an  initial  surprise,  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division  was  fought  to 
a  standstill  (this  is  confirmed  by  Wirth),  and  retired  to  shelter  until 
relieved  by  the  arrival  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps. 

The  position  of  the  9th  Cavalry  Division  soon  became  critical 
(verdammt  kritisch),  but  it  hung  on  until  44  about  2  P.M.,  when 
44  reinforcements  came  up  [probably  from  the  8th  Division]  and 
44  the  artillery  belaboured  the  enemy's  position." 

The  4th  Cavalry  Division  does  not  claim  to  have  done  much,  and 
44  its  losses  were  comparatively  small.  .  .  .  Towards  11  A.M.  the 
44  infantry  of  the  IV.  Corps  (8th  Division)  entered  the  fight,  and 
44  the  attack  was  then  carried  forward  to  Bethancourt." 

At  dusk  the  II.  Cavalry  Corps  was  withdrawn  and  concentrated 
at  Naves  and  Cauroir,  two  villages  a  couple  of  miles  north-east  and 
east  of  Cambrai. 

1  See  p.  186. 

2  "  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  pp.  55-63.     A  detailed  account  of  the  action 
of  the  German  cavalry  at  Le  Cateau,  extracted  from  this  book,  will  be 
found  in  the  "  Army  Quarterly,"  January  1922. 




(See  Sketches  3,  4  &  5  ;  Maps  2,  3,  9,  12  &  13) 

IT  is  now  time  to  return  to  the  I.  Corps  and  see  what  it  Sketch  3. 
was  doing  on  the  morning  of  the  26th  whilst  the  II.  Corps  M*PS  3» 
was  engaged  at  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau. 

Whatever  loss  the  Germans  may  have  suffered  in  their 
repulse  by  the  Guards  at  Landrecies,  they  had  succeeded  in 
disturbing  the  repose  of  the  I.  Corps  and  in  keeping  it 
on  the  alert  all  night  in  expectation  of  an  attack.  Its 
strategic  position,  besides,  was  far  from  satisfactory; 
for  the  Germans  appeared  to  be  about  to  break  in  between 
it  and  the  II.  Corps,  and  to  be  threatening  the  flank  of 
its  retreat  from  the  west.  Soon  after  midnight,  from 
his  headquarters  at  Le  Grand  Fayt,  five  miles  from  Land- 
recies, Sir  Douglas  Haig  took  measures  to  meet  the  situa- 
tion, and  to  occupy  a  position  facing  north  and  north-west. 
The  trains,  after  dumping  supplies,  were  ordered  off  south- 
ward to  Etreux,  carrying  the  men's  packs  in  the  empty 
lorries.  The  1st  Division  was  ordered  to  take  position 
near  Favril,  a  mile  and  a  half  S.S.E.  of  Landrecies,  to 
cover  the  withdrawal  of  the  2nd  Division  on  its  .right. 
The  2nd  Division  was  divided,  part  retiring  to  the  right 
and  part  to  the  left  rear  of  the  1st  Division,  as  under  : — 

The  5th  and  6th  Infantry  Brigades  to  close  in  from  Noyelles 
and  Maroilles  upon  Le  Grand  Fayt  (4  miles  east  of  Favril) ; 

The  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  to  retire  as  soon  as  possible  from 
Landrecies  on  La  Groise  (south-west  of  Favril) ; 

The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  to  cover  the  west  flank  of  the 
corps  between  Ors  and  Catillon. 

The  French  Reserve  divisions  on  the  right  of  the  corps 


were  warned  of  the  retirement,  and  a  brigade,  sent  by 
General  Valabregue  to  gain  touch  with  the  right  of  the 
2nd  Division,  occupied  first  the  line  Marbaix — Maroilles, 
and  subsequently  the  high  ground  between  Le  Grand 
Fayt  and  Maroilles. 

As  matters  turned  out,  the  Germans  made  no  attempt 
to  renew  their  attacks.  The  3rd  Infantry  Brigade  en- 
trenched at  Favril,  and  the  4th  passed  it,  totally  un- 
molested, by  4.15  A.M.  The  3rd  Infantry  Brigade  was 
slightly  engaged  later  in  the  day,  but  would  probably 
have  been  left  in  absolute  peace  had  not  a  section  of 
British  guns,  by  firing  at  a  distant  column  of  German 
infantry  marching  west,1  provoked  retaliation  and  a  sharp 
attack  by  some  dismounted  cavalry,  which  resulted  in  a 
few  casualties  to  the  1 /Gloucestershire.  At  noon  the  1st 
(Guards)  Brigade  relieved  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade  near 
Le  Grand  Fayt,  enabling  the  latter  to  strike  southward 
through  Etreux,  where  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  had  secured 
the  bridge  leading  across  the  Sambre  to  Venerolles.  The 
retirement  of  the  1st  Division  then  began  ;  between  1  P.M. 
and  2  P.M.  the  1st  (Guards)  and  2nd  Infantry  Brigades 
left  Favril  for  Fesmy  and  Oisy,  both  to  the  north  of  Etreux. 
Not  one  of  these  brigades  reached  its  destination  before 
10  P.M.,  and  the  men  were  greatly  fatigued.  The  3rd 
Infantry  Brigade  remained  at  Favril  till  5  P.M.,  and  then 
marched  straight  to  Oisy. 

The  progress  of  the  5th  Infantry  Brigade  from  Noyelles 
to  Le  Grand  Fayt  was  arrested  for  several  hours  by  the 
movement  across  its  line  of  march  south-westwards  on 
Guise  of  General  Valabregue's  divisions.2  About  half 
a  mile  to  the  south-west  of  Marbaix  towards  1  P.M.  the 
transport  of  the  main  body  was  blocked  ;  and  the  2/Con- 
naught  Rangers,  who  formed  the  rear  guard,  came  per- 
force to  a  halt.  One  company  remained  in  rear  of  the 
transport,  and  the  rest  of  the  battalion  halted  on  the 
road  from  Maroilles  to  Marbaix,  a  mile  south  of  Tais- 
nieres.  At  this  point  French  infantry  was  entrenching 
a  position,  whilst  French  cavalry  patrols  guarded  the 
roads  in  all  directions.  From  these  it  was  understood 
that  there  was  no  enemy  in  the  vicinity.  After  taking 
due  precaution,  therefore,  to  watch  the  approaches,  the 

1  Part  of  the  ///.  Corps  moving  from  Landrecies  on  Le  Cateau.     See 
Kaupert's  "Das  Infanterie -Regiment,  No.  48,"  pp.  16,  17. 

2  Palat,  vol.  v.  p.  160,  states  that  the  I.  Corps  was  on  roads  assigned 
to  the  Reserve  divisions.      The  difficulty  was  adjusted  during  the  night. 
See  p.  206  below. 


commanding  officer,  Colonel  Abercrombie,  allowed  the  26  Aug. 
Connaught  Rangers  to  rest,  sending  word  to  the  brigadier 
that  he  would  move  on  to  Le  Grand  Fayt  at  3  P.M.  unless 
otherwise  ordered.  At  3.15  P.M.  French  patrols  came  in 
with  the  news  that  some  two  hundred  Germans,  with  a 
machine  gun,  were  close  at  hand.  Colonel  Abercrombie 
at  once  set  out  with  two  platoons  towards  Marbaix,  and, 
after  advancing  some  six  hundred  yards,  was  met  by 
heavy  fire  from  artillery  and  a  machine  gun.  Calling 
up  the  rest  of  the  battalion,  he  deployed  it  south  of 
the  road.  The  companies  then  advanced  over  difficult 
country,  of  high  hedges  and  small  enclosures,  under 
severe  fire,  which  however  ceased  after  about  an  hour. 
A  messenger  sent  to  brigade  headquarters  to  report 
the  situation  was  unable  to  find  them  ;  and  between  5  and 
6  P.M.  the  company  commanders,  being  out  of  touch 
with  Colonel  Abercrombie,  began  to  withdraw  inde- 
pendently through  Le  Grand  Fayt  south-westwards  upon 
Barzy  with  such  men  as  they  could  collect.  At  6  P.M. 
Colonel  Abercrombie  followed  with  about  a  hundred  men, 
being  assured  by  an  inhabitant  that  no  enemy  was  in 
Le  Grand  Fayt ;  but,  while  passing  through  the  village, 
his  detachment  was  fired  upon  by  Germans  concealed 
in  the  houses,  and  comparatively  few  escaped.  Other 
parties  were  also  cut  oft,  and  altogether  nearly  three 
hundred  officers  and  men  of  the  Connaught  Rangers  were 

The  5th  Infantry  Brigade  finally  went  into  billets  at 
Barzy,  5  miles  north-east  of  the  bulk  of  the  2nd  Division. 
The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade,  which  was  little  molested  in 
its  duty  of  covering  the  left  flank  except  by  occasional 
shells,  fell  back  with  trifling  loss  eight  miles  further  to 
Hannapes,  on  the  Oise,  about  two  miles  south-west  of 
Etreux,  not  reaching  its  billets  until  far  into  the  night. 

The  position  of  the  I.  Corps  on  the  night  of  the  26th 
was  in  and  around  Etreux ;  in  detail  as  follows : 

1  Vogel  gives  a  full  account  of  this  fight.  The  attackers  were  the  1st 
Guard  Cavalry  Brigade  and  the  Garde-Schulzenbataillon.  He  states  that 
French  troops  also  took  part,  and  about  100  of  them  were  taken  prisoners, 
as  well  as  93  English.  According  to  him,  it  was  the  German  cavalry 
which  was  surprised,  and  the  Divisional  Staff,  which  was  close  up  to  the 
vanguard,  was  under  fire.  He  mentions  that  the  German  cavalry  fought 
on  foot  for  the  first  time  in  the  war.  His  division  billeted  at  Marbaix. 

The  German  official  list  of  battles  shows  that  the  2nd  Guard  Reserve 
Division  of  the  X.  Reserve  Corps  was  also  engaged  at  Marbaix  on  the  26th 


1st  Division  :  Fesmy,  Petit  Cambresis,  Oisy. 

2nd  Division  :  fitreux,  Venerolles. 

5th  Cavalry  Brigade  :  Hannapes. 

Corps  Hqrs. :  1J  miles  east  of  Hannapes. 

The  II.  Corps  and  4th  Division,  and  remaining  cavalry 
brigades  were  18  miles  to  the  west,  in  retreat  south-west- 
ward to  the  Oise,  on  the  front  of  St.  Quentin — Le  Catelet. 

The  French  53rd  and  69th  Reserve  Divisions  were  to 
the  south-east  of  the  I.  Corps  at  Iron  and  Lavaqueresse. 


At  1  A.M.  on  the  27th  the  Staff  of  the  French  Fifth 
Sketch  3.  Army  arranged  with  General  Haig  that  the  road  through 
Maps  3,  Guise  should  be  left  to  the  British ;  *  and,  since  there  was 
no  choice  but  for  the  whole  of  the  I.  Corps  to  march  by 
this  single  highway,  unless  part  were  sent  by  less  direct 
roads  on  the  west  side  of  the  Oise,  all  vehicles  were  "  double- 
banked,"  and  staff  officers  were  sent  forward  to  Guise  to 
provide  for  the  passage  of  two  distinct  streams  of  traffic 
through  the  town.  The  operation  promised  to  be  critical, 
in  view  of  the  gap  between  the  I.  and  II.  Corps  having 
widened  rather  than  decreased  on  the  26th,  while  to  the 
north  and  north-east  the  enemy  was  reported  to  be  in 
considerable  strength.  The  situation  was  not  rendered 
less  anxious  by  a  false  report,  which  was  current  early 
in  the  afternoon,  that  he  was  also  in  great  force  just  to 
the  north  of  St.  Quentin.  General  Maxse's  (the  1st, 
Guards)  Brigade  was  detailed  as  rear  guard  to  both  divi- 
sions ;  General  Bulfin's  (2nd  Infantry)  Brigade  as  a 
western  flank  guard  ;  and  the  2/Welch,  with  the  46th 
Battery  R.F.A.,  as  eastern  flank  guard.  Great  stress 
was  laid  on  the  importance  of  holding  the  enemy  at  a 
distance  from  the  high  ground  on  the  north-west  between 
Fesmy  and  Wassigny,  so  that  he  should  be  unable  to 
bombard  Etreux,  where  supplies  were  to  be  issued  to  the 
troops  as  they  passed  through.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade 
was  sent  well  to  the  west  on  the  other  side  of  the  Oise, 
with  instructions  to  follow  a  route,  parallel  to  the  divisions, 
by  Grougis,  Aisonville,  Noyales  and  Hauteville.  Mean- 
while, Brigadier-General  Chetwode,  its  commander,  led 
it  to  a  central  position  five  miles  to  the  west  of  Etreux, 
between  Mennevret  and  Le  Petit  Verly,  and  pushed  out 
patrols  to  the  north  and  north-west. 

1  The  Reserve  divisions  crossed  the  Oise  by  bridges  above  Guise. 

ETREUX  207 

The  corps  was  under  way  by  4  A.M.,  the  1st  Division  27  Aug. 
remaining  in  a  covering  position  until  the  2nd  Division  1914- 
had  moved  off.  The  latter  reached  its  billets  without 
the  slightest  molestation,  but  the  march  for  the  5th  Infantry 
Brigade  from  Barzy  to  Neuvillette  (8  miles  south-west  of 
Guise)  was  long ;  the  2/Highland  Light  Infantry,  in  par- 
ticular, having  been  employed  in  repairing  the  roads  at 
dawn,  did  not  arrive  at  its  halting-place  until  10  P.M.,  after 
a  tramp  of  thirty  miles.  The  false  alarm  of  the  enemy's 
presence  at  St.  Quentin  kept  the  entire  division  in  move- 
ment longer  than  would  otherwise  have  been  necessary, 
for  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  was  sent  out  westward  as 
a  flank  guard,  and  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade  spent  the 
night  entrenching  itself  just  east  of  the  5th,  about  Mont 

Meanwhile,  until  late  in  the  afternoon,  the  1st  Division 
remained  in  position,  with  rear  and  flank  guards  out, 
waiting  for  the  road  to  be  clear ;  but  there  was  no 
sign  of  serious  pressure  upon  the  line  north-west  of 
Etreux,  to  which  so  much  importance  was  attached.  Map  12. 
In  General  Maxse's  rear  guard,  the  1/Coldstream  were 
about  Oisy  (2  miles  north  of  Etreux)  beyond  the  canal, 
and  the  1 /Black  Watch  and  1 /Scots  Guards  just  to  the 
west  of  them,  in  touch  with  the  western  flank  guard  at 
Wassigny  ;  the  Munster  Fusiliers,  with  two  troops  of  the 
15th  Hussars  and  a  section  of  the  118th  Battery  R.F.A., 
all  under  Major  Charrier  of  the  Munsters,  formed  the  rear 
party  east  of  the  Sambre  Canal,  and  had  been  under  arms, 
facing  north-east,  since  dawn.  The  general  position  of 
this  party  was  four  miles  from  Etreux,  and  extended  for 
two  miles,  from  Bergues  through  Fesmy  to  Chapeau 
Rouge,  where  it  struck  the  north — south  road  from  Land- 
recies  to  Etreux.  The  eastern  flank  guard  was  in  position 
to  the  south-east,  on  the  hill  south  of  Bergues.  The 
ground  here  falls  gently  westwards  to  the  Sambre  Canal, 
which  flows  first  on  one  side  then  on  the  other  of  the 
Landrecies  road.  The  country  lent  itself  to  defence,  being 
divided  into  small  enclosures  by  thick  hedges,  which  were 
passable  at  certain  gaps  only.  During  the  morning  a 
thick  white  mist  lay  upon  the  ground,  and  later  there  was 
a  thunder-storm,  so  that  visibility  was  never  good. 

Two  companies  of  the  Munsters  were  about  Chapeau 
Rouge  as  screen,  watching  the  roads  that  run  north-west- 
wards and  northwards  to  Catillon  and  La  Groise,  and  the 
remainder  of  the  rear  party  were  half  a  mile  to  the  south-east 


in  front  of  Fesmy.  Later,  half  a  company,  and  one  troop 
of  the  15th  Hussars,  were  pushed  south-eastwards  to 
Bergues.  No  sign  of  the  enemy  was  seen  until  9  A.M., 
when  a  German  cavalry  patrol  came  down  the  road  to 
Chapeau  Rouge  from  the  north,  halted  within  five  hundred 
yards,  and  fired  a  few  shots.  The  Munsters  made  no 
reply,  but  the  Germans  came  no  closer.  There  were 
indications  of  another  column  of  the  enemy  to  the  north- 
east, moving  south-westwards  from  Prisches  upon  Le 
Sart  straight  at  the  centre  of  Major  Charrier's  force  ;  but 
its  advanced  party  had  galloped  back  on  the  appearance 
of  a  corporal  of  the  15th  Hussars.  By  9.30  A.M.  all  was 
again  quiet,  and  Lieut. -Colonel  Morland  of  the  2/Welch 
informed  Major  Charrier  that  he  was  going  to  withdraw 
the  eastern  flank  guard  to  Boue  (2  miles  north-east  of 
Etreux).  General  Maxse  directed  the  Munsters  to  hold  on  to 
their  position  until  ordered  or  forced  to  retire  ;  and  Major 
Charrier  sent  word  to  the  general  that,  the  choice  of  the 
route  being  left  to  him,  he  also  should  fall  back  by  the 
road  to  Boue.  The  best  part  of  an  hour  passed  away, 
when,  towards  10.30  A.M.,  German  infantry  came  down 
again  from  the  north-east,  and  opened  an  attack  on 
Bergues,  which  a  little  later  was  extended  also  to  Chapeau 
Rouge.  The  Munsters  being  by  this  time  entrenched, 
held  their  own  with  little  difficulty ;  the  two  guns  found 
a  target  in  a  German  column  to  the  north-west,  and  all 
went  well. 

At  11  A.M.,  whilst  this  action  was  in  progress,  the  3rd 
Infantry  Brigade  was  at  last  able  to  start  southward  from 
Oisy ;  and  at  the  same  time  Colonel  Morland's  flank 
guard  also  moved  south  upon  Boue".  The  firing  died 
away,  and  at  noon  General  Maxse  confirmed  Major  Charrier's 
choice  of  the  road  for  his  retreat,  at  the  same  time  sending 
to  all  units  of  the  rear  guard  their  final  instructions  for 
retirement,  the  hour  only  being  left  blank.  By  12.20  P.M. 
the  road  at  Etreux  was  reported  clear  of  all  transport ; 
and  a  little  later  General  Maxse  despatched  orders  (time 
1  P.M.)  to  every  unit  of  the  rear  guard,  "  Retire  at  once." 
This  message,  though  sent  by  two  routes,  failed  to  reach 
the  Munster  Fusiliers. 

Meanwhile,  at  12.30  P.M.  or  thereabouts,  German 
infantry  developed  its  attack  in  greater  strength  on  both 
flanks,  at  Bergues  and  at  Chapeau  Rouge,  though,  as  yet, 
without  the  support  of  artillery.  As  the  pressure  became 
heavier,  in  accordance  with  Major  Charrier's  orders,  the 

ETREUX  209 

two  companies  at  Chapeau  Rouge  gradually  withdrew  27  Aug. 
south-eastwards  towards  Fesmy.  The  men,  finding  good  1914- 
shelter  in  the  ditches  by  the  side  of  the  road,  worked  their 
way  back  with  very  slight  loss,  and  by  shooting  down 
the  Germans  as  they  showed  themselves  at  the  gaps  in 
the  hedges,  forbade  any  close  pursuit.  The  guns  also 
opened  fire,  first  towards  the  north,  and  later  to  the  north- 
east, in  which  quarter  the  enemy  was  now  observed  to  be 
in  greatest  force.  Following  the  Munsters  up  slowly,  the 
Germans  delivered  a  strong  attack  upon  Fesmy,  their  guns 
now  coming  into  action  for  the  first  time  ;  but  they  made 
little  progress.  The  Munsters'  machine  guns  did  very 
deadly  work,  firing  down  the  road  from  Fesmy  to  Le  Sart ; 
but  although  the  Germans  tried  to  mask  their  advance  by 
driving  cattle  down  on  the  defenders,  it  was  to  no  purpose. 
At  1.15  P.M.  Major  Charrier  sent  to  General  Maxse  this 
short  message  :  "  Am  holding  on  to  position  north  of 
"  Fesmy  village,  being  attacked  by  force  of  all  arms.  Get- 
"  ting  on  well.  The  Germans  are  driving  cattle  in  front  of 
"  them  up  to  us  for  cover.  We  are  killing  plenty  of  them." 

Thus  holding  his  own,  Major  Charrier 's  chief  anxiety 
was  for  his  detachment  at  Bergues.  He  pushed  out  a 
platoon  to  the  eastward,  in  the  hope  of  gaining  touch  with  it, 
but  the  platoon  was  driven  back  by  superior  numbers ;  and, 
in  fact,  the  troops  at  Bergues  were  about  this  time  forced 
out  of  the  village  and  compelled  to  retreat  southward  to 
a  farm.  Here  after  checking  German  pursuit  by  fire  and 
then  counter-attacking,  the  detachment  retired  westward 
to  the  Sambre  Canal,  and  thence  down  the  road  to  Oisy. 

Meanwhile,  Major  Charrier  continued  his  defence  of 
Fesmy  with  great  spirit ;  he  had  now  the  whole  of  his 
battalion,  except  the  half -company  at  Bergues,  under  his 
hand  ;  and  he  had  need  of  them.  So  resolute  was  the 
onset  of  the  Germans  that,  in  places,  they  approached  to 
within  a  hundred  and  fifty  yards  of  the  village,  and  a  few 
actually  broke  into  it  and  shot  down  two  of  the  artillery 
wagon  teams.  Every  one  of  these  bold  men  was  killed  or 
captured,  and  at  1.50  P.M.  Major  Charrier  sent  off  the  last 
message  which  came  through  from  him  to  General  Maxse  : 
''  We  have  German  wounded  prisoners,  who  say  that  about 
"  two  regiments  are  opposing  us  and  some  guns.  They 
"  belong  to  the  15th  Regiment " — that  is  to  say,  to  the  VII. 
Corps  of  the  German  Second  Army.1 

1  They  really  belonged  to  the  15th  Reserve  Infantry  Regiment  of  the 
2nd  Guard  Reserve  Division.     The  German  official  list  of  battles  shows 
VOL.  I  P 


About  this  time — 1.45  to  2  P.M. — the  2nd  Infantry 
Brigade,  the  western  flank  guard,  marched  away  from 
Wassigny  for  Hannapes,  south  of  fitreux,  with  little 
hindrance  ;  the  Northamptons,  who  brought  up  the  rear, 
lost  only  four  men,  and  claimed  on  their  side  from  forty  to 
fifty  German  troopers  killed,  wounded  or  taken  prisoner.1 
Thus  the  greater  part  of  the  1st  Division  was  now  in  motion 
to  the  south  ;  the  3rd  Infantry  Brigade  was  within  an  hour's 
march  of  Guise  ;  and  there  remained  only  the  rear  guard 
to  bring  off.  Major  Charrier,  having  struck  the  enemy 
hard,  with  little  loss  to  himself,  at  2.30  P.M.  threw  out 
flank  guards  wide  upon  each  side  and  began  his  retreat 
upon  Oisy.  The  movement  was  necessarily  slow,  the 
flanking  parties  being  impeded  by  hedges  ;  and  it  was 
some  time  before  the  rearmost  of  the  Munsters  and  the 
two  guns  left  Fesmy.  At  3  P.M.  the  cyclist,  who  had 
failed  to  deliver  the  copy  of  General  Maxse's  final  order  to 
Major  Charrier,  reached  the  Coldstream  Guards  near  Oisy, 
and  gave  them  their  instructions  to  retire  forthwith. 
Simultaneously,  the  detachment  of  the  15th  Hussars  and 
Munster  Fusiliers  from  Bergues  came  into  Oisy  and  took 
Map  3.  over  the  guard  of  the  bridge  there.  But  it  was  now 
evident  that  the  gap  between  the  rear  guard  and  the 
corps  was  increasing  rapidly  :  the  3rd  Infantry  Brigade 
being  by  this  time  at  Guise  ;  the  2nd  Infantry  Brigade 
closing  in  upon  Hannapes,  some  five  miles  in  rear ; 
whilst  the  1st,  at  another  five  miles  distance,  was  still 
in  position  at  Oisy.  The  3rd  Infantry  Brigade  was  there- 
fore halted  at  Guise,  and  the  I/South  Wales  Borderers  and 
the  XXVI.  Brigade  R.F.A.  were  sent  back  north  about 
three  miles  to  Maison  Rouge,  where  at  3.30  P.M.  they 
took  up  a  position  to  cover  the  retreat  of  the  1st  (Guards) 

By  that  hour  the  Coldstream  Guards,  Scots  Guards  and 
Black  Watch  had  begun  to  withdraw,  the  northern  of  the 
two  bridges  over  the  canal  near  Oisy  being  blown  up  after 
the  last  man  had  crossed  it ;  and  shortly  after  4  P.M.  the 
rear-guard  cavalry  reported  strong  hostile  columns  moving 
south  upon  La  Vallee  Mulatre,  immediately  to  the  west  of 
Wassigny.  The  three  battalions,  upon  reaching  the  level 

that  the  2nd  Guard  Reserve  Division  of  the  X.  Reserve  Corps  was  engaged 
at  Fesmy  on  the  27th  August. 

1  They  belonged  to  the  16th  Uhlans,  the  corps  cavalry  of  the  VII.  Corps, 
the  right  of  the  Second  Army  (see  Cramm's  "  Geschichte  des  Ulanen- 
regiments,  No.  16,"  p.  106). 

ETREUX  211 

plateau  to  the  south  of  Etreux,  found  themselves  threatened  27  Aug. 
from  the  north  and  west  by  a  German  cavalry  division l  and  1914- 
two  batteries.  There  was  a  good  deal  of  firing  as  they 
retired  over  the  next  three  miles  of  ground  to  the  south- 
ward, but  it  was  confined  chiefly  to  the  artillery;  for 
the  enemy  was  held  at  a  distance  without  much  difficulty 
by  the  British  batteries  at  Maison  Rouge.  Thus  the  three 
battalions  reached  Guise  with  trifling  loss,  the  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade  retiring  parallel  to  them  on  the  west.  The 
firing  died  down  at  dusk,  and  the  1st  Division  went  into 
bivouac,  the  3rd  Infantry  Brigade  at  Bernot,  just  north  of 
the  2nd  Division  at  Mont  D'Origny,  at  9  P.M.,  and  the  2nd 
and  1st  Brigades  at  Hauteville  and  Jonqueuse,  north- 
east and  east  of  Bernot,  at  11  P.M.  The  2/Welch  of  the 
eastern  flank  guard  also  reached  Bernot  at  this  hour; 
it  had  been  much  impeded  by  refugees,  but  beyond 
suffering  a  good  deal  of  sniping,  had  not  been  inter- 
fered with  by  the  enemy.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade 
also  came  into  the  same  area  for  the  night ;  and  the 
detachment  of  15th  Hussars  at  Oisy  marched  southward 
on  to  Mont  d'Origny,  which  it  reached  at  midnight.  The 
men  were  greatly  fatigued  by  their  long  and  trying  day, 
but  they  had  been  little  pressed  by  the  Germans.  A 
cavalry  division  had,  indeed,  appeared  very  late  from  the 
north-westward,  but  no  infantry  had  threatened  them 
from  the  north,  and  the  reason  for  this  must  now  be 

As  it  left  Fesmy  the  rearmost  company  of  the  Munsters  Map  12. 
had  become  engaged  with  German  infantry,  but  was  able 
to  disengage  and  rejoin  the  main  body  of  the  battalion, 
then,  about  5.45  P.M.,  half-way  to  Etreux,  and  con- 
tinue its  retreat.  But  as  it  approached  the  village, 
Germans  were  seen  crossing  the  road  ahead,  and  fire  was 
opened  not  only  by  German  infantry  from  the  houses  on 
the  northern  outskirts,  but  from  a  battery  not  more  than 
fifteen  hundred  yards  away  to  the  eastward.  Then  for  the 
first  time  the  Munsters  began  to  fall  fast.  One  of  the  two 
guns  of  the  section  of  the  118th  Battery  was  disabled,  a 
single  shell  destroying  the  whole  team.  The  other  gun 
was  promptly  brought  into  action  against  the  German 
artillery,  but  over  three  hundred  rounds  had  already  been 
fired,  and  ammunition  was  very  nearly  exhausted.  Still 
undaunted,  Major  Charrier  pushed  forward  two  companies 
to  clear  the  way  through  Etreux  ;  but  the  Germans  had 

1  The  Guard  Cavalry  Division  of  Richthofen's  Corps. 


installed  themselves  in  the  trenches  dug  during  the  fore- 
noon by  the  Black  Watch,  and  also  occupied  a  house, 
which  they  had  loopholed,  west  of  the  road.  A  house  east 
of  the  road  now  burst  into  flames,  evidently  giving  the 
signal  for  a  converging  attack  from  all  sides  upon  the 
Munsters.  Major  Charrier  ordered  the  remaining  gun  to 
be  brought  up  to  demolish  the  loopholed  house,  but  the 
range  was  so  short  that  the  team  and  detachment  were 
instantly  shot  down.  A  third  company,  which  was 
supporting  the  advance  of  the  two  companies,  was  then 
sent  to  make  an  attack  on  the  railway-cutting  to  the  east 
of  Etreux  station.  In  spite  of  enfilade  fire,  both  of  in- 
fantry and  artillery,  the  company  worked  up  to  within 
seventy  yards  of  the  cutting  and  charged.  The  men 
were  mowed  down  on  all  sides,  and  only  one  officer 
reached  the  hedge,  with  one  man,  who  was  then  killed  by 
his  side. 

Meanwhile  Major  Charrier  had  led  three  charges  against 
the  loopholed  house,  in  one  of  which  his  adjutant  actually 
reached  the  building,  and  fired  his  revolver  through  a 
loophole,  only  to  drop  stunned  by  a  blow  from  falling 
brick-work.  These  gallant  efforts  were  all  in  vain.  It  was 
now  7  p.m.  The  Germans  attacked  from  south,  east  and 
west,  and,  though  temporarily  driven  back  at  one  point  by 
a  bayonet  charge,  continued  to  advance.  Major  Charrier 
was  shot  dead  alongside  the  deserted  gun  on  the  road  ;  and 
so  many  officers  had  by  this  time  fallen,  that  the  command 
devolved  upon  Lieutenant  E.  W.  Gower.  Collecting  such 
men  as  were  left,  he  formed  them  in  an  orchard,  facing  to  all 
points  of  the  compass,  and  continued  to  resist.  Gradually 
the  Germans  crowded  in  on  them  from  three  sides,  bringing 
fresh  machine  guns  into  position,  and  at  9.15  P.M.  they 
closed  in  also  from  the  north,  and  the  little  band  of  not 
more  than  two  hundred  and  fifty  of  all  ranks  with  ammuni- 
tion almost  spent,  was  overpowered.  The  Munsters  had 
been  fighting  against  overwhelming  odds  for  nearly  twelve 
hours,  and  discovered  at  the  end  that  they  had  been 
matched  against  at  least  six  battalions  of  the  73rd  and  77th 
Reserve  Infantry  Regiments,  of  the  19th  Reserve  Division, 
besides  three  of  the  15th  Regiment  of  the  2nd  Guard  Reserve 
Division,  all  forming  part  of  the  X.  Reserve  Corps.  Beyond 
question,  they  arrested  the  enemy's  pursuit  in  this  quarter 
for  fully  six  hours,  and  their  heroic  sacrifice  was  not  made 
in  vain. 

SKETCH    4. 


Retreat  of  B.E.F. 
Positions  at  night  are  shown  by  dates. 








la  Fere 




MILES  543210 

Ordnance   Sarvey,   1920. 



I.  Corps.  On  the  high  ground  south-  28  Aug. 

wards   of  Guise   from    Long-    1914- 
champs  to  Mont  d'Origny,  with  Sketch  3. 

5th  Cavalry  Brigade.  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  and  Maps  3 

4th  (Guards)  Brigade  west  of  &  13' 
the  river  Oise  about  Hauteville 
and  Bernot. 

1st,    2nd    and    3rd    Cavalry         South  of  St.   Quentin  from 
Brigades  (portions).  Itancourt  to  Savy. 

II.  Corps.  Still  18  miles  to  the  south- 

westward  of  the  I.  Corps. 
4th  Division.  Part  south  of  the  Somme  from 

Ham  to  Rouy ;  the  remainder 
4th  Cavalry  Brigade.  within  four  hours'  march  of  the 



At  dawn  on  the  28th,  although  the  weather  was  still 
extremely  hot,  the  retreat  of  the  I.  Corps  on  La  Fere  was 
resumed  under  more  favourable  conditions  ;  for,  although 
two  German  divisions  were  reported  from  eight  to  twelve 
miles  north  of  St.  Quentin,  the  rumour  that  they  were 
actually  in  that  town  was  proved  to  be  false ;  l  and, 
moreover,  the  French  XVIII.  Corps  was  now  in  touch  with 
the  British  on  the  east.  The  transport  began  to  move  off 
at  2  A.M.  In  addition  to  a  rear  guard,  a  flank  guard  (under 
Brigadier-General  Home)  consisting  of  the  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade,  5th  Infantry  Brigade  and  XXXVI.  Brigade 
R.F.A.,  was  thrown  out  to  the  west ;  and  the  rear  guard, 
the  2nd  Infantry  Brigade  with  a  brigade  of  artillery  and  a 
squadron,  held  the  heights  of  Mont  d'Origny  during  the 
passage  of  the  main  body  through  Origny.  Nothing  was 
seen  of  the  enemy  until  shortly  after  noon,  when  a  German 
column  of  all  arms  appeared,  working  round  towards  the 
right  rear  of  the  2nd  Infantry  Brigade,  and  about  12.30 
P.M.  its  guns  opened  fire,  but  with  little  effect.2  The 
German  infantry  made  some  semblance  of  attack,  but  was 

1  On  the  night  of  the  27th/28th,  the  German  III.,  IV.  and  IV.  Reserve 
Corps  were  6  miles  from  St.  Quentin  on  a  front  facing  south  and  south- 
west (Kluck). 

2  From  von  Billow's  map,  the  column  would  appear  to  belong  to  the 
X.  Corps  then,  with  the  rest  of  the  Second  Army,  moving  south-westward. 
Later  in  the  day,  that  Army  turned  south. 


easily  held  at  a  distance,  and  at  2  P.M.  the  last  of  the 
British  battalions  marched  off,  covered  by  infantry  of 
Valabregue's  Reserve  divisions,  which  occupied  the 
position  as  they  vacated  it.  The  I.  Corps  then  made  its 
way,  always  by  a  single  highroad,  towards  La  Fere.  The 
march  was  again  most  trying,  for  on  the  greater  part  of 
the  way  battalions,  as  well  as  transport,  were  "  double- 
banked,"  and  a  swarm  of  refugees  added  to  the  con- 
gestion. Thus,  choked  with  dust,  on  an  airless,  oppressive 
day,  the  I.  Corps  at  last  reached  La  Fere,  crossed  the  Oise 
southwards,  and,  in  the  course  of  the  afternoon,  reached 
its  billets : — the  1st  Division  just  south  of  La  Fere  at 
Fressancourt,  Bertaucourt  and  St.  Gobain ;  the  2nd 
Division  further  to  the  westward  at  Andelain,  Servais  and 

It  remained  to  be  seen  whether  the  German  cavalry 
would  press  into  the  gap  between  the  I.  and  II.  Corps, 
which  was  still  some  fifteen  miles  wide.  It  will  be  remem- 
bered that  on  this  day  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  had 
been  pushed  eastwards  by  Major-General  Allenby  to  gain 
touch  with  the  I.  Corps.1  Early  in  the  forenoon  the 
brigade  was  in  position  six  or  seven  miles  south  of  St. 
Quentin,  between  Cerizy  and  Essigny,  when  at  10  A.M. 
firing  was  heard  to  the  north,  which  was  followed  shortly 
afterwards  by  the  appearance  of  French  Territorial  infantry- 
men retiring  south  from  St.  Quentin  through  Essigny. 
Learning  from  them  that  they  had  been  surprised  by 
German  cavalry  and  artillery  at  Bellenglise,  Brigadier- 
General  Gough  withdrew  his  right,  the  4th  Hussars,  south- 
wards from  near  Essigny  to  Benay,  to  cover  their  retreat. 
After  a  time,  his  patrols  reported  a  brigade  of  Uhlans  to  be 
advancing  on  Essigny  and  a  second  column  of  all  arms 
further  to  the  east,  moving  on  Cerizy.  About  1  P.M.  an 
advanced  party  of  Uhlans  was  caught  in  ambush  by  the 
4th  Hussars  about  Benay  and  dispersed  with  loss,  their 
killed  being  identified  as  Uhlans  of  the  Guard  Cavalry 
Division.  The  column  in  rear  of  them  thereupon  attempted 
to  work  round  General  Gough' s  eastern  flank,  but  was 
stopped  by  the  guns  of  E  Battery  R.H.A.  Thus  what 
seems  to  have  been  the  western  column  of  the  Guard 
Cavalry  Division  was  brought,  with  comparative  ease,  to  a 

1  See  p.  199. 

CfiRIZY  215 


The  eastern  column  of  the  German  cavalry  was  more 
enterprising,  but  no  more  successful.  As  commander  of 
the  left  flank  guard  of  the  I.  Corps,  Brigadier-General 
Home l  had  sent  the  whole  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  to 
the  western  bank  of  the  Oise,  and,  at  10.30  A.M.,  Sir  Philip 
Chetwode  moved  it  to  Moy,  a  village  nearly  abreast  and 
2  miles  east  of  Cerizy,  where  he  halted  in  the  Oise 
valley ;  and  leaving  the  Scots  Greys  on  outpost,  with  the 
20th  Hussars  in  close  support,  on  the  high  ground  to  the 
north-west  by  La  Guinguette  Farm,  he  rested  the  remainder 
of  the  brigade  in  Moy.  About  noon  the  enemy  came  into 
"  sight,  advancing  south  along  the  main  road  from  St. 
Quentin.  Upon  this  a  squadron  of  the  Scots  Greys,  with 
a  machine  gun,  was  sent  to  occupy  a  copse  on  the  eastern 
side  of  the  road  a  little  to  the  north  of  La  Guinguette  Farm 
(on  the  St.  Quentin — La  Fere  road,  J  mile  east  of  Ce*rizy), 
with  one  troop  pushed  forward  to  a  building  near  the  road 
about  half  a  mile  ahead,  and  a  section  of  J  Battery  R.H.A. 
was  unlimbered  about  half  a  mile  to  the  south-east  of 
the  copse.  The  advanced  troop  of  the  Greys  was  driven 
back  by  superior  numbers,  but  all  attempts  of  hostile 
patrols  to  penetrate  to  La  Guinguette  were  foiled  by  the 
fire  of  the  remainder  of  the  squadron.  At  length,  at 
2  P.M.,  two  squadrons  of  the  enemy  advanced  in  close 
formation  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  road,  and,  being  fired 
on  both  by  the  Greys  and  by  the  two  guns,  dismounted. 
Most  of  their  horses,  terrified  by  the  bursting  shells, 
galloped  away,  and  the  troopers,  after  discharging  a  few 
rounds,  also  turned  tail.  Thereupon,  General  Chetwode 
at  once  ordered  the  rest  of  J  Battery  into  action  and 
directed  the  12th  Lancers,  with  two  squadrons  of  the 
Greys  in  support,  to  move  round  the  enemy's  eastern 
flank,  and  the  20th  Hussars  to  advance  along  the  St. 
Quentin  road  and  turn  them  from  the  west.  The  dis- 
mounted Germans  meanwhile  made  off  in  all  haste,  but 
the  leading  squadron,  C,  and  the  machine-gun  section  of 
the  12th  Lancers,  hurrying  northward,  caught  sight  of  a 
body  of  German  cavalry,  about  eight  hundred  yards  away, 
moving  in  close  formation  towards  Moy.  Attacking  it 
with  fire,  the  12th  Lancers  compelled  the  Germans  to 
dismount,  and  then  stampeded  their  horses.  The  two 

1  See  p.  213. 


other  squadrons  and  J  Battery  now  coming  into  action, 
C  squadron  mounted  and,  led  by  Lieut.-Colonel  Wormald, 
approaching  over  dead  ground,  got  within  fifty  yards 
of  the  enemy  and  charged.  Some  seventy  or  eighty  of 
the  Germans,  who  proved  to  be  the  2nd  Guard  Dragoon 
Regiment,  were  speared.  The  12th  Lancers  lost  one 
officer  and  four  men  killed,  and  the  lieutenant-colonel 
and  four  men  wounded.  Further  pursuit  would  obviously 
have  been  imprudent,  but  General  Chetwode  remained 
on  his  ground  long  enough  to  collect  all  his  wounded  —  his 
casualties  did  not  exceed  thirty  —  and  to  ascertain  that 
his  guns  had  played  such  havoc  with  the  German  reserves 
that  their  total  losses  might  fairly  be  reckoned  at  three 
hundred  killed  and  wounded.  Finally  towards  evening, 
he  and  General  Gough  fell  back  independently,  the  former 
to  the  left  of  the  I.  Corps,  to  Sinceny  and  Autreville,  the 
latter  to  rejoin  the  Cavalry  Division,  west  of  the  Oise  canal 
at  Frieres  (6  miles  W.N.W.  of  La  Fere)  and  Jussy  (just 
north  of  Frieres).  Though  the  action  at  La  Guinguette 
had  been  comparatively  insignificant,  it  had  very  effectually 
damped  the  ardour  of  the  German  cavalry.1 


Sketch  3.        When  all  movements  had  been  completed  on  the  night 
Map  13.    Of  the  28th/29th  August,  the  I.  Corps  was  south  of  the 

Map  3.  *  The  Chaplain  of  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division,  Dr.  Vogel,  gives  the 
following  account  of  this  action.  After  relating  the  march  of  the 
division  on  the  28th  August  from  La  Groise  via  Wassigny  and  Bohain 
to  Homblieres  (3  miles  east  of  St.  Quentin),  which  it  reached  at  1  P.M., 
and  a  fight  around  St.  Quentin  with  two  battalions  of  the  French  10th 
Territorial  Infantry  Regiment  (von  Kluck  says  that  his  ///.  Corps  was 
also  engaged  there)  which  lasted  until  7  P.M.,  he  states  that  in  the  course 
of  this  "  a  report  came  from  the  Dragoons  that  they  were  in  a  severe 
action  east  of  Urvillers  [4  miles  north-west  of  Moy  whence  the  British 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  had  moved].  They  had  stumbled  on  what  appeared 
to  be  weak  enemy  infantry  in  the  wood  south-west  of  the  village,  and 
had  attacked  with  three  squadrons  dismounted,  intending  to  charge  with 
the  other  three.  It  turned  out,  however,  that  the  brigade  had  to  deal, 
not  with  disorganized  fugitives,  but  with  a  strong  detachment  of  the 
intact  Franco-British  Army  that  had  advanced  from  La  Fere.  This  was 
evident  from  the  lively  infantry  fusilade  which  they  received  as  they 
approached  mounted.  It  was  not  easy  to  get  clear  (Loslosung  war  nicht 
leicht),  but  with  the  assistance  of  a  battery,  the  brigade  succeeded  in 
withdrawing  behind  the  hill  north  of  the  wood,  which  was  held  by  the 
Guard  Schutzenbataillon.  Some  British  squadrons  which  also  had  deployed 
'  to  charge  were  driven  back  by  our  guns,  which  opened  at  just  the  right 
moment.  The  3rd  Guard  Uhlans  now  reinforced  the  troops  holding  the 
hill.  A  troop  of  the  Dragoons,  under  Lieutenant  Graf  Schwerin,  was 
ridden  over  by  British  Hussars.  The  wounded,  amongst  whom  were 
men  with  six  or  seven  lance  wounds,  and  several  bullet  wounds,  were 
taken  prisoner  by  the  enemy." 


Oise  and  of  La  Fere  ;  the  II.  Corps,  with  the  4th  Division,  Night  of 
was  north  and  east  of  Noyon,  with  one  division  south  of  28 
the  Oise.  Thus,  the  two  wings  of  the  Army  were  still 
11  miles  apart,  the  gap  between  them  being  more  or 
less  covered  by  cavalry  in  a  curve  from  the  left  of  the 
I.  Corps  to  the  northern  end  of  the  II.  Corps.  On  the 
right,  the  British  were  6  miles  in  rear  of  the  left  of  the 
French  Fifth  Army,  but  on  the  left  in  touch  with  Sordet's 

In  greater  detail,  the  positions  of  the  British  were  :         Map  3. 

I.  Corps  : 

On  the  northern  edge  of  the  Forest  of  St.  Gobain  and 

Coucy,  from  Fressancourt  to  Amigny. 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  :  Sinceny. 

II.  Corps  (including  4th  Division  and  19th  Infantry  Brigade 

and  Cavalry  Division)  : 
1st,  2nd  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  : 
At  Berlancourt,  Flavy  le  Meldeux — Plessis,  and  Jussy, 

3rd,  4th  and  5th  Divisions  : 

From   Freniches,    south   and   east,   through   Genvry   to 

4th  Cavalry  Brigade  : 

Cressy  (3  miles  south  of  Nesle)  north-west  of  the  4th 

From  the  28th  onward  every  day  was  to  bring  the 
two  wings  closer  to  each  other.  Sir  John  French,  after 
meeting  some  of  the  5th  Division  on  the  march,  as  has 
already  been  told,  had  motored  on  to  La  Fere  to  see  the 
I.  Corps,  and  had  satisfied  himself  as  to  the  good  spirit 
of  the  troops.  He  had  also  received  the  promise  of  the 
6th  Division  from  England  about  the  middle  of  September 
and  of  a  complete  corps  from  India  at  a  later  date.  Other 
important  intelligence  also  reached  him.  The  troops 
of  General  d'Amade,  together  with  General  Sordet's 
Cavalry  Corps,  had  been  seen  in  action  between  Peronne 
and  Bray  sur  Somme,  but  by  evening  it  appeared  that 
they  had  been  pressed  back.  There  was  good  reason  to 
believe  that  German  headquarters  judged  the  British 
Army  to  be  beaten  beyond  hope  of  speedy  recovery,  and 
were  intent  upon  extending  their  enveloping  movement 
westwards  until  they  could  sweep  all  opposing  forces  into 
their  net. 

General  Joffre,  during  his  visit  to  Sir  John  French 
on  the  27th,  had  mentioned  the  preparation  of  a  counter- 


stroke  and  the  formation  of  a  new  Army  on  his  left.  The 
first  sign  of  it  was  seen  on  this  day  in  the  arrival  of  units 
between  Amiens  and  Ham.  This  Army,  the  Sixth,  under 
General  Maunoury,  was  to  be  formed  between  the  British 
and  General  d'Amade.  As  a  beginning,  the  VII.  Corps,1 
brought  from  Belfort,  was  detraining  at  Villers  Bretonneux, 
to  the  east  of  Amiens,  and  a  Moroccan  brigade  was  already 
assembled  further  to  the  east.2  On  the  same  day  General 
Joffre — his  Western  Armies  being  on  the  general  line 
Rheims — Amiens — ordered  the  French  Fifth  Army  to  take 
the  offensive  towards  St.  Quentin  along  a  line  parallel 
to  the  Oise  from  Guise  to  La  Fere,  hoping  at  best  to  strike 
an  effective  blow  which  might  check  the  German  advance, 
and  at  least  relieve  the  British  Army  from  all  further 

On  the  evening  of  the  28th  August,  the  French  Fifth 
Army  was  disposed  on  the  arc  of  a  circle  opposite  Guise 
from  Vervins  to  Vendeuil  (3  miles  north  of  La  Fere).4 
It  was  thus  in  touch  with,  but  in  advance  of,  the  British 
Army.  During  the  day,  General  Valabregue's  Reserve 
divisions,  which  since  the  night  of  the  25th/26th,  as 
already  described,  had  marched  so  close  to  the  I.  Corps 
as  sometimes  to  share  its  roads,  had  had  hard  fighting  on 
the  Oise  bridges  at  Guise  and  in  its  neighbourhood,  and 
had  withdrawn  at  nightfall  to  the  left  of  the  line  of  the 
Fifth  Army. 

Sir  John  French  issued  orders  at  11.30  P.M.5  for  the 
British  to  halt  and  rest  on  the  29th,  but  with  the  condition 
that  all  formations  should  be  withdrawn  to  the  south  of 

1  14th    Division    and    63rd    Reserve    Division.    The    13th    Division 
remained  in  Alsace. 

2  According  to  von  Kluck,  von  der  Marwitz's  Cavalry  Corps  "  was 
"  surprised  in  its  billets  [near  Peronne]  by  the  French  61st  and  62nd  Reserve 
"  Divisions  (of  d'Amade's  force)  on  the  morning  of  the  28th.     The  French, 
'*  however,  were  driven  from  the  field  at  Manancourt  (7  miles  S.W.  of 
"  Bapaume)  by  parts  of  the  II.  Corps  and  IV.  Reserve  Corps.'1''     This  was 
the  action  of  Mesnil  (Palat,  vol.  v.  pp.  141-2). 

3  The  orders,  according  to  General  Lanrezac  ("  Le  Plan  de  Campagne 
Fran9ais,"  p.  218)  were  verbal :  "  Take  the  offensive  a  fond  on  St.  Quentin 
and  as  soon  as  possible,  without  bothering  about  the  English."     Palat, 
vol.  v.  p.  170,  states :    "  The  situation  of  the  British  Army,  constantly 
"  menaced  in  rear  and  on  the  left  flank,  naturally  pre-occupied  the  General- 
"  in-Chief.     He  judged  it  necessary  to  diminish  the  enemy  pressure  on  it 
**  by  carrying  out  a  counter-offensive  with  the  Fifth  Army."     Hanotaux, 
vol.  viii.  p.  82,  says,  "  Avant  tout,  il  faut  fixer,  c'est-a-dire  sauver,  1'armee 

4  Palat,  vol.  v.,  and  Hanotaux,  *'  La  Bataille  de  Guise — St.  Quentin, 
28-30  aout  1914  "  ("  Revue  des  Deux  Mondes,"  September  1918). 

6  Appendix  18. 


a  line  practically  east  and  west  through  Nesle  and  Ham,  27-28  Aug. 
connecting  with  the  French  at  Vendeuil.  During  the  1»14- 
evening  of  the  28th,  Sir  Douglas  Haig  was  asked  by  General 
Lanrezac  to  co-operate  in  his  coming  offensive  ;  but  on 
informing  G.H.Q.  of  the  request,  he  received  instruc- 
tions that  he  was  not  to  take  part.  The  Field-Marshal 
was  anxious  to  withdraw  his  exhausted  troops  as  soon  as 
possible  to  some  safe  locality  for  eight  or  ten  days,  where 
they  might  rest  and  be  re-equipped,  and  he  accordingly 
arranged  with  General  Joffre  that  they  should  fall  back 
to  a  line  a  little  to  the  south  of  the  Aisne  between  Soissons 
and  Compiegne.  The  situation  was  complicated  by  the 
fact  that  von  Kluck's  sweep  westwards  had  compelled 
the  evacuation  of  the  British  advanced  base  at  Amiens. 
It  was  on  this  day  that  St.  Nazaire,  at  the  mouth  of 
the  Loire,  was  first  suggested  to  take  the  place  of 
Havre  as  the  principal  sea  base  of  the  British  force  in 

It  may  be  mentioned  here  that,  with  the  view  of  Map  2. 
creating  a  diversion  on  the  western  flank  to  assist  the 
British  Expeditionary  Force  and  of  supporting  the  Belgians, 
three  battalions  of  Royal  Marine  Light  Infantry,  under 
command  of  Brigadier-General  Sir  George  Aston,  were 
landed  at  Ostend  on  the  27th  and  28th  August.  They 
were  re-embarked  on  the  31st.1  News  of  this  landing 
appears  to  have  reached  the  German  Supreme  Command 
on  the  30th.  With  regard  to  it  the  head  of  the  Operations 
Branch  of  the  German  General  Staff  has  written  : 2 

"  At  this  time  there  was,  as  may  be  imagined,  no  lack 
"  of  alarming  reports  at  General  Headquarters.  Ostend 
"  and  Antwerp  took  a  prominent  part  in  them.  One  day 
"  countless  British  troops  were  said  to  have  landed  at  Ostend 
"  and  to  be  marching  on  Antwerp ;  on  another  that  there 
"  were  about  to  be  great  sorties  from  Antwerp.  Even 
"  landings  of  Russian  troops,  80,000  men,  at  Ostend  were 
"  mentioned.  At  Ostend  a  great  entrenched  camp  for  the 
"  English  was  in  preparation.3  .  .  .  Though,  of  course, 
"  the  security  of  the  rear  and  right  flank  of  the  army  re- 
"  quired  constant  attention,  such,  and  even  worse  informa- 
"  tion,  could  not  stop  the  advance  of  the  troops." 

1  For  details  see  Sir  Julian  Corbett's  **  Naval  Operations,"  vol.  i.  pp. 
92-4  and  123-4. 

2  General-Leutnant  Tappen,  "  Bis  zur  Marne,"  p.  22. 

3  Brigadier-General  Aston's  men  did  commence  digging. 



27  Aug.        What  became  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies 

1914-  after  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau  will  now  be  related. 
Sketch  5.  On  the  26th  August,  von  Billow  l  had  issued  orders 
Map  3.  for  the  continuation  of  the  pursuit  in  a  "  sharp  south- 
"  westerly  direction  ...  as  sufficient  elbow  room  had  to 
"  be  obtained  for  the  great  wheel  of  the  Third,  Fourth  and 
* '  Fifth  Armies  round  Verdun. ' '  ' '  After  continuous  fighting 
with  French  rear  guards,"  the  /.  Cavalry  Corps  and  three 
and  a  half  corps  of  the  Second  Army  2  reached  an  approxi- 
mate S.E.  and  N.W.  line  a  little  in  front  of  Avesnes, 
the  cavalry  and  X .  Reserve  Corps  moving  to  Marbaix, 
where  they  had  the  fight,  already  related,8  with  the  Con- 
naught  Rangers  ;  but  the  Second  Army  took  no  part  in 
the  battle  of  Le  Cateau. 

On  the  27th,  after  Le  Cateau,  von  Kluck,  making  a 
late  start,  moved  about  twelve  miles  in  a  south-westerly 
direction  : — III.  Corps  via  Maretz  to  Nauroy,  IV.  Corps 
to  Bellicourt — Vendhuille,  17.  Corps,  with  //.  Cavalry 
Corps  in  front,  to  Sailly  Saillisel — Fins  (5  miles  south-east  of 
Bapaume) ;  and  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  followed  between 
the  //.  and  IV.  Corps  to  Roisel — Li^ramont.  The  only 
fighting  that  von  Kluck  records  is  isolated  encounters 
of  the  //.  Corps  and  cavalry  with  General  d'Amade's 
forces  on  the  British  left,  at  Heudecourt  and  west- 
wards. The  IX.  Corps  (less  the  17th  Division)  marched 
from  Maubeuge  via  Le  Cateau  some  five  hours  later 
than  the  rest  of  the  Army,  and  billeted  in  and  about 

The  Second  Army  (still  without  the  13th  Division], 
reached  a  S.E.  and  N.W.  line  through  Etreux,  where  the 
X.  Reserve  Corps,  on  its  western  flank,  ran  into  the  Munster 

During  the  day,  von  Kluck  was  released  from  von 
Billow's  command ;  he  was  therefore  free  to  make  a 
wide  turning  movement  to  the  west,  instead  of  being 

1  Billow,  p.  29. 

2  The  ISth  Division  was  left  behind  at  Maubeuge,  where  General  von 
Zwehl  took  charge  of  the  investment  with  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps  (less 
13th  Reserve  Division  on  march  from  Namur),  and  the  17th  Division  of 
the  IX.  Corps.     The  13th  Division  rejoined  the  Second  Army  in  the  nick 
of  time  to  take  part  in  the  battle  of  Guise. 

8  See  p.  205.  4  See  p.  209  et  seq. 


THE    GERMAN  ADVANCE,    17   AUGUST -5   SEPTEMBER,  1914. 




<*       $p  Cologne 

Maestricht  "'-V 

a^mr-i0"""*?     V 

MARCH,  18  Aug. -5  Sept. 
POSITIONS,  5  Sept. 

Defended  Areas 

BRITISH  ARMIES,  5  Sept.         i 

Ordnance   Survey,  1920- 


tied  to  the  Second  Army  in  order  to  assist  it  to  tactical  28  Aug. 

On  the  28th,  therefore,  the  First  Army  sent  on  cavalry 
and  field  batteries  in  pursuit  of  d'Amade's  forces,  and 
there  was  rear-guard  fighting  ;  the  remainder  of  the  Army 
moved  south-west  across  the  British  front.  The  //I. 
Corps  got  no  further  than  Bellenglise — outskirts  of  St. 
Quentin,  owing  to  the  opposition  met  with  from  French 
Territorials,  British  cavalry  and  stragglers  ;  the  heads  of 
the  three  corps  on  the  right  just  reached  the  Somme,  on  a 
front  six  miles  on  either  side  of  Peronne ;  the  IX.  Corps 
was  still  a  march  behind  on  the  left. 

In  the  Second  Army,  von  Biilow  ordered  the  Guard 
and  X.  Corps  on  his  left  (east)  to  stand  fast  and  recon- 
noitre, since  the  French  Fifth  Army  was  on  their  front 
behind  the  Oise,  whilst  his  right  swung  round  in  touch 
with  the  First  Army  : — 

"  /.  Cavalry  Corps"  he  ordered,  "  will  endeavour  to 
"  attack  the  British  in  the  rear,  moving  round  the  south 
"  of  St.  Quentin  ;  " 

the  VII.  Corps  (less  13ih  Division)  was  to  march  early 
to  St.  Quentin ;  the  X.  Reserve  Corps  was  to  make  a 
short  march  of  about  six  miles  south-west  from  Etreux. 
Except  for  the  cavalry  fight  at  La  Guinguette  x  and  the 
right  of  the  X.  Reserve  Corps  brushing  against  the  rear 
guard  at  Mont  d'Origny,2  all  touch  with  the  British  was  lost. 
Von  Biilow  does  not  say  what  places  the  above-named  corps 
reached  by  evening,  but  he  records  that  in  the  afternoon  of 
the  28th  he  received  a  message  from  von  Kluck  asking 
him  to  deal  with  the  disorganized  English  forces,  who 
appeared  to  be  falling  back  on  La  Fere.  He  therefore 
ordered  the  X.  Reserve  and  VII.  Corps  (less  13th  Division) 
to  push  on  westwards,  towards  the  passages  of  the  Somme 
and  the  Crozat  Canal  near  Ham  and  St.  Simon  (4  miles 
east  of  Ham),  which  they  reached  on  the  29th. 

Thus  the  B.E.F.,  though  at  first  followed  by  the  right 
of  the  Second  Army  and  the  left  of  the  First9  escaped  from 
pressure  on  the  28th  owing  to  the  gap  between  these 
Armies  steadily  increasing  to  some  fourteen  miles. 

During  the  evening  of  the  28th  an  officer  from  O.H.L. 
brought  to  von  Biilow  and  von  Kluck  "  General  Directions 
for  the  Further  Conduct  of  Operations."  8 

1  See  p.  215.  a  See  p.  213. 

3  Given  in  extenso  in  von  Kluck.  Thus  far  the  original  plan  for  the 
First  Army  to  sweep  west  of  Paris  was  maintained. 


In  accordance  with  these,  the  First  Army  and  II. 
Cavalry  Corps  were  to  march  west  of  the  Oise  towards 
the  lower  Seine,  and  the  Second  Army  and  /.  Cavalry  Corps 
towards  Paris  ;  at  the  same  time,  the  First  Army  was  to  be 
"  prepared  to  co-operate  in  the  fighting  of  the  Second 
"  Army  and  be  responsible  for  the  protection  of  the  right 
"  flank."  As  the  Armies  were  already  marching  south-west, 
these  directions  did  not  necessarily  mean  any  change  in 
the  orders  to  their  corps. 

A  completely  erroneous  appreciation  of  the  situation 
appears  to  have  been  current  at  O.H.L.  at  this  time.  It 
furnishes  a  clue  to  the  apparently  haphazard  way  in  which 
the  German  Armies  moved,  and  is  so  extraordinary  that 
it  is  best,  perhaps,  to  quote  the  words  of  the  Chief  of  the 
Operations  Section  i.1 

"  The  French,  as  expected,  had  offered  battle  to  prevent 
"  us  from  penetrating  into  France.  The  highly  favourable 
"  reports  that  came  in  daily,  even  on  the  25th  August,  in 
"  conjunction  with  the  great  victory  of  the  Sixth  and 
"  Seventh  Armies  in  Lorraine  on  the  20th  and  25th, 
"  aroused  in  Great  Headquarters  the  belief  that  the  great 
"  decisive  battle  in  the  West  had  been  fought  and  con- 
"  eluded  in  our  favour.  Under  the  impression  that  there 
"  had  been  a  '  decisive  victory,'  the  Chief  of  the  General 
"  Staff  resolved  on  the  25th,  in  spite  of  arguments  to  the 
"  contrary,  to  detach  forces  to  the  East.  He  believed  the 
"  moment  had  come  when,  in  conformity  with  the  great 
"  operations  plan,  a  decisive  victory  in  the  West  having 
"  been  won,  considerable  forces  could  be  sent  to  the  East 
"  to  obtain  a  decision  there  also.  For  this  purpose  six 
"  corps  were  detailed,  among  them  the  XI.  Corps  and 
"  Guard  Reserve  Corps  (besieging  Namur).  .  .  .  Only  after 
"  the  whole  extent  of  the  victory  at  Tannenberg  became 
"  known  was  the  order  cancelled  as  regards  the  four  corps 
"  to  be  taken  from  the  centre  and  left ;  one  of  these,  the 
"  V.  Corps  of  the  Fifth  Army,  was  actually  awaiting 
"  entrainment  at  Thionville.  On  the  subsequent  days 
"  further  reports  of  successes  came  in.  After  O.H.L.  had 
"  issued  instructions  on  the  26th  and  27th  for  the  continua- 
"  tion  of  the  operations  on  the  basis  that  great  victories 
"  had  been  gained,  the  First  Army  reported  on  the  28th 
"  August  that  it  had  defeated  the  British  Army,  and  that 
"  it  was  already  half-way  between  the  Belgian  frontier  and 
"  Paris.  .  .  .  The  idea  that  the  French  retirement  was 

1  Tappen,  pp.  18,  19. 


"  according  to  plan  was  only  expressed  by  a  few  solitary  28  Aug. 
"  individuals."  1914- 

This  statement  may  be  partly  designed  to  throw  some 
of  the  blame  on  the  Army  commanders  for  forwarding 
misleading  reports  of  victories,  but  the  despatch  of  the 
two  army  corps  to  Russia  and  the  bringing  of  the  V. 
Corps  out  of  the  line  are  established  facts.  Nor  would  it 
seem  that  the  successes  were  unexpected.  Shortly  before 
the  war  Conrad  von  Hotzendorf,  the  Chief  of  the  Staff  of 
the  Austro-Hungarian  Army,  enquired  of  von  Moltke  how 
long  it  would  be  before  a  decision  in  the  West  would  be 
reached,  and  the  latter  replied :  "  the  thirty-sixth  to 
fortieth  day  of  mobilization ; "  x  as  the  2nd  August  1914 
was  the  first  day,  this  meant  the  6th  to  10th  September,  a 
very  accurate  forecast. 



The  general  line  of  retirement  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  after  Map  3. 
Charleroi  was  south-westwards,  its  orders  being  to  reach  the  line 
Laon — La  Fere.  The  movements  of  General  Valabregue's  two 
Reserve  divisions  in  contact  with  the  British  I.  Corps  have  been 
mentioned.  The  XVIII.  Corps  (35th,  26th  and  38th  (African) 
Divisions)  on  their  right,  retired  via  Avesnes,  and  crossed  the  Oise 
at  Romery  (4  miles  east  of  Guise).  The  III.  Corps,  next  on  the 
right  (5th,  6th  and  37th  (African)  Divisions),  followed  in  echelon 
behind  the  XVIII.  ;  it  passed  the  French  frontier  on  the  25th  and 
marched  through  Fourmies  (10  miles  south-east  of  Avesnes),  and 
crossed  the  Oise  between  Etreaupont  and  Ohis.  The  X.  Corps 
marched  via  La  Capelle  to  Hirson,  first  south  and  then  south-east, 
to  keep  in  touch  with  the  Fourth  Army,  and  thence  to  Vervins. 
The  I.  Corps,  from  the  right  of  the  Army,  after  reaching  Travaux 
(7  miles  south  of  Vervins),  was  brought  north-west  into  second  line 
between  the  III.  and  X.  Corps. 

Thus,  by  the  evening  of  the  28th  August,  the  Fifth  Army  was 
drawn  up  facing  north  and  north-west  behind  the  Oise  from  Veryins 
practically  to  La  Fere,  in  the  following  order  :  4th  Cavalry  Division, 
51st  Reserve  Division,  X.  Corps,  III.  Corps,  XVIII.  Corps,  Vala- 
bregue's Reserve  divisions,  with  the  I.  Corps  coming  up  into  second 
line.  The  German  Second  Army  was  in  contact  with  the  whole 
front  of  the  Fifth  Army,  and  had  secured  a  bridgehead  at  Guise. 

1  Conrad's  "  Aus  meiner  Dienstzeit,"  vol.  i.  p.  370. 

2  From    Palat,    vol.   v.,    and    Hanotaux   in  the   "  Revue   des  Deux 
Mondes,"  1st  September  1918. 




Cavalry  Division 

I.  Corps  : 

1st  Division 
2nd  Division     . 

II.  Corps  : 

3rd  Division 
5th  Division      . 
4th  Division     . 
19th  Infantry  Brigade 

1  The  British  losses  at  Waterloo  were  8,458  (Wellington  Despatches, 
vol.  xii.). 

23rd.         24th. 


26th.         27th. 
(Le  Cateau.) 



































(See  Sketches  4  &  5  ;  Maps  3,  4,  14,  15  &  16) 

EXCEPT  for  some  minor  adjustments  to  secure  the  best  Sketches 
ground  possible,  in  the  course  of  which  the  4th  Division  ^ &  5- 
had  moved  back  a  little  to  the  area  Bussy — Sermaize —  14aps 
Chevilly,  the  morning  of  the  29th  August  found  the 
British  Expeditionary  Force  halted  in  its  over -night 
positions  on  the  Oise.1  To  the  right  front  of  the  British 
was  the  French  Fifth  Army,  and  to  their  left  front  the 
newly -formed  French  Sixth  Army,  General  Maunoury's 
headquarters  being  at  Montdidier.2  In  pursuance  of 
General  Joffre's  directions,  the  Fifth  Army  attacked 
towards  St.  Quentin.  But  the  situation  had  changed  since 
the  operation  had  been  planned ;  the  advanced  troops  of 
the  German  Guard  and  X .  Corps,  driving  back  Valabregue's 
Reserve  divisions  which  opposed  them,  had  crossed  the 
Oise  on  the  evening  of  the  28th.  As  they  were  rapidly 
reinforced,  it  became  necessary  to  stop  the  French  main 
attack,  which  was  going  well,  and  deal  with  this  menace 
to  what  was  now  the  right  flank  of  the  Fifth  Army. 
The  counter-offensive  drove  the  Germans  back  over  the 
Oise,  but  on  the  left  in  the  original  direction  towards  St. 
Quentin,  no  advantage  was  gained ;  the  opposing  force : 

1  See  p.  217. 

2  At  this  time,  General  Maunoury's  Army  consisted  of  the  VII.  Corps 
(14th  Division  and  63rd  Reserve  Division),  55th  Reserve  Division  (just 
arrived  from  the  Army  of  Lorraine),  the  61st  and  62nd  Reserve  Divisions 
(of  d'Amade's   force),  a  Moroccan  infantry  brigade,  two   battalions    of 
Chasseurs  des  Alpes  and  a  Provisional  Cavalry  Division  (General  Cornulier- 
Luciniere's)  formed  from  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps,  the  rest  of  this  corps 
having  gone  back  to  Versailles  to  refit.    The  56th  Reserve  Division  arrived 
during  the  evening  of  the  29th  August. 

VOL.  I  225  Q 


the  X.  Reserve  Corps  and  the  greater  part  of  the  VII. 
Corps1  of  the  Second  Army  and  the  17th  Division  from  the 
inner  wing  of  the  First  Army,2  being  in  superior  numbers. 
Meanwhile  the  outer  wing  of  the  German  First  Army, 
swinging  south-westwards,  was  engaged  with  General 
Maunoury's  Army,  and  there  was  heavy  fighting  at 
Proyart  (10  miles  south-west  of  Peronne)  and  Rosieres 
(6  miles  south  of  Proyart). 

For  the  British,  except  the  cavalry,  much  of  the  29th 
was  a  day  of  rest,  devoted  to  repairing  the  wear  and  tear 
of  the  strenuous  days  through  which  they  had  passed. 

The  enemy  was  by  no  means  wholly  inactive  on  the 
British  front.  At  5  A.M.  the  16th  Lancers  were  driven  out 
of  Jussy  on  the  Crozat  Canal  by  infantry  and  machine 
guns,8  but  they  held  their  own  until  the  bridge  over  the 
canal  had  been  destroyed,  when  they  and  the  rest  of  the 
3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  fell  back  slowly  to  Chauny  (6J  miles 
W.S.W.  of  La  Fere).  Before  8  A.M.  reports  came  in  that 
German  infantry  and  guns  were  crossing  the  Somme  at 
Pargny  and  Re"thencourt  well  away  to  the  north;4  and 
soon  after  that  hour  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  lying  north 
of  Smith-Dorrien  was  engaged  with  a  force  of  all  arms  5 
advancing  from  the  direction  of  Ham.  The  brigade 
retired  with  deliberation  to  Guiscard,  which  it  reached  at 
11  A.M.,  and  thence  went  southward.  To  support  it,  the 
9th  Infantry  Brigade  of  the  3rd  Division  took  position  at 
Crissoles  (3  miles  north  of  Noyon),  and  the  4th  Division 
sent  a  battalion  to  Muirancourt  (2  miles  north  of  Crissolles). 
By  1  P.M.  it  was  apparent  that  nothing  serious  was  going 
forward,  the  general  trend  of  von  Kluck's  Army  was  still 
decidedly  to  the  west  of  south,  and  von  Biilow  was  engaged 
with  the  French.  At  4.15  P.M.,  in  accordance  with  G.H.Q. 
instructions,  General  Smith-Dorrien  issued  orders  for  a 
short  withdrawal  of  his  force,  to  bring  all  of  it  south  of 
the  Oise  and  nearer  to  the  I.  Corps.  At  6  P.M.  the 
Map  14.  troops  began  their  march : — the  3rd  Division  to  Cuts,  the 
5th  to  Carlepont,  and  the  4th  to  the  north  of  Carlepont, 
leaving  a  rear  guard  of  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade  north  of 

1  One  infantry  brigade  and  an  artillery  Abteilung  (three  batteries)  were 
still  before  Maubeuge. 

a  Just  relieved  from  the  investment  of  Maubeuge. 
8  Possibly  Jdger,  of  the  /.  Cavalry  Corps. 

4  The  18th  Division  according  to  von  Kluck's  map. 

5  This  according  to  Vogel  was  part  of  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division  ; 
the  I.  Cavalry  Corps  was  filling  the  gap  between  the  First  and  Second 


the  Oise.     All  three  divisions  reached  their  destinations  29  Aug. 
between  9  P.M.  and  midnight.     The  1st  and  2nd  Cavalry   1914- 
Brigades  followed  them  ;  and  thus  by  midnight  practically 
the  whole  of  General  Smith-Dorrien's  force  had  crossed  to 
the  south  of  the  Oise.     The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  on  its 
right  front,  billeted  for  the  night  at  Chauny,  and  the  4th 
Cavalry  Brigade  five  miles  west  of  Noyon,  at  Dives.     This 
south-eastward  movement  of  the  II.  Corps  reduced  the 
gap  between  it  and  the  I.  Corps  to  seven  miles. 

Throughout  this  day  the  I.  Corps  enjoyed  undisturbed 
repose.  During  the  afternoon  General  Joffre  visited  Sir 
John  French  at  Compiegne,  whither  G.H.Q.  had  moved 
from  Noyon  on  the  28th.  In  view  of  the  general  situation, 
he  was  most  anxious  that  the  B.E.F.  should  remain  in  line 
with  the  French  Armies  on  either  flank,  so  that  he  could 
hold  the  Rheims — Amiens  line,  which  passed  through  La 
Fere,  and  attack  from  it.1 

Sir  John  French,  however,  in  view  of  the  exertions  of 
the  British  Army,  and  its  losses  in  officers  and  men,  and 
even  more  in  material,  was  equally  anxious  to  withdraw 
and  rest  it  for  a  few  days,  in  order  to  make  good  defects. 
He  did  not  consider  that  it  was  in  condition  to  attack  ; 
but  it  was  not  until  9  P.M.,2  after  the  success  of  the 
Germans  on  the  left  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  was 
evident,  that  he  issued  orders  for  further  retreat  to  the  Sketch  5. 
line  Soissons — Compiegne,  behind  the  Aisne.  Maps  3 

The  German  situation  at  that  time  was  roughly  as 
follows  :  The  Second  and  First  Armies  formed  a  gigantic 
wedge,  of  which  the  apex  lay  a  little  south  of  Ham :  the 
Second  Army,  under  von  Billow,  extending  from  Etreaupont 
on  the  Oise  nearly  to  Ham,  with  its  front  towards  south 
and  south-east ;  and  the  First  Army,  under  von  Kluck, 
from  Ham  to  Albert,  with  its  front  to  the  south-west.  Both 
of  these  Armies  were  already  weaker  than  the  German 
Higher  Command  had  originally  intended.  The  First 
Army  had  been  obliged  to  leave  the  ///.  Reserve  and  IX. 
Reserve  Corps  to  invest  Antwerp  ;  and  upon  this  day  the 
Guard  Reserve  Corps  of  the  Second  Army,  as  well  as  the 
XI.  Corps  of  the  Third  Army  (relieved  by  the  fall  of 
Namur),  after  marching  back  to  Aix  la  Chapelle,  began  to 
move  by  rail  to  the  Russian  front.  Further,  the  Second 
Army  had  to  leave  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps  and  part  of  the 
VII.  Corps  to  invest  Maubeuge. 

Without  the  B.E.F.  to  fill  the  gap  between  his  Fifth 

1  See  p.  218.  2  Appendix  19. 


and  Sixth  Armies,  even  if  their  initial  operations  were 
successful,  General  Joffre  felt  that  he  could  not,  in  view 
of  the  general  situation,  risk  fighting  on  the  Rheims — 
Amiens  line.1  His  orders  for  the  retirement  of  the  Fifth 
Army  were  issued  during  the  night  of  the  29th/30th,  and 
began  to  take  effect  about  8.30  A.M.  on  the  30th,  when, 
after  a  very  successful  counter-stroke,  the  French  I.  and 
X.  Corps  began  to  withdraw.  His  message  to  Sir  John 
French,  sent  off  at  8.45  A.M.,  said  that  he  had  given  General 
Lanrezac  orders  to  place  his  Army  behind  the  Serre  (which 
flows  into  the  Oise  at  La  Fere).  The  intention  was  to 
make  a  general  retirement,  avoiding  any  decisive  action, 
but  without  giving  up  ground  unnecessarily,  and  he  pointed 
out  that  it  was  of  the  highest  interest  that  the  B.E.F. 
should  keep  in  constant  liaison  with  the  Fifth  Army,  "  so 
"  as  to  profit  by  favourable  opportunities  and  administer 
"  to  the  enemy  other  severe  lessons  of  the  kind  that  he  had 
"  received  on  the  previous  day." 


Sketches  Sir  John  French  had  left  the  time  of  starting  to  be 
4  &  5-  settled  by  his  corps  commanders  ;  the  I.  Corps  began  its 
4  marcn  southwards  at  3  A.M.,  covered  on  the  eastern  flank 
by  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade,  and  on  the  western  by  the 
3rd.  The  day  was  intensely  hot,  and  in  the  Forest  of  St. 
Gobain  the  air  was  stifling.  Since  crossing  the  Somme, 
the  British  had  passed  into  a  rugged  country  of  deep  wood- 
lands, steep  hills,  narrow  valleys  and  dusty  roads.  Severe 
gradients  and  crowds  of  refugees  multiplied  checks  on  the 
way  ;  and,  what  made  the  march  more  distressing,  the  I. 
Corps  was  ordered — in  consequence  of  a  false  alarm  of  a 
German  force  moving  from  Noyon  towards  the  south  of 
Laon — to  turn  north-east,  so  as  to  cover  the  left  flank  of 
the  Fifth  Army.  Such  was  the  exhaustion  of  the  men 
that  it  was  necessary  to  curtail  the  march,  and  the  1st 
Division  was  halted  for  the  night  some  eight  miles  north 
of  Soissons,  with  its  head  at  Allemant ;  and  the  2nd 
Division  a  little  to  the  south-west  of  it  about  Pasly.  The 
II.  Corps,  together  with  the  4th  Division  and  the  19th 
Infantry  Brigade — the  two  latter  from  this  day  constituted 

1  Hanotaux,  vol.  viii.  p.  134,  gives  as  the  reason  for  the  further 
retreat  that  the  Fifth  Army  was  "  uncovered  on  the  left  by  the  precipitate 
"  retirement  of  the  British  and  on  the  right  by  the  withdrawal  of  the 
"  Fourth  Army  from  which  it  was  separated  by  a  gap  of  20  miles  watched 
"  by  only  a  few  squadrons." 


the  III.  Corps  under  General  Pulteney — after  a  few  hours'  30  Aug. 
rest  on  conclusion  of  its  night  march,1  continued  its  move-  1914- 
ment  south-east,  and  halted  on  the  Aisne  about  Attichy, 
the  llth  Infantry  Brigade  having  been  skilfully  withdrawn 
without  mishap  by  Brigadier-General  Hunter- Weston  from 
its  rear-guard  position  beyond  the  Oise.  The  5th  and 
3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  lay  for  the  night  at  Vauxaillon, 
between  the  1st  and  2nd  Divisions,  and  at  Fontenoy  on 
the  Aisne,  between  the  I.  and  II.  Corps,  respectively  ;  the 
1st,  2nd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  were  reunited  under  the 
hand  of  the  divisional  commander,  on  the  left  of  the  Army, 
round  Compiegne.  The  gap  between  the  two  wings  of  the 
B.E.F.  was  thus  reduced  to  six  miles. 

There  was  practically  no  interference  from  the  enemy 
on  this  day.  The  rear  guard  of  the  Cavalry  Division  was 
slightly  engaged  by  Uhlans  at  8  A.M.,  and  two  parties  of 
Engineers  were  fired  on  whilst  engaged  in  destroying  the 
bridges  over  the  Oise,  with  the  result  that  the  bridge  at 
Bailly  was  left  undemolished.2 

General  Lanrezac  had  little  difficulty  in  carrying  out  his 
retirement,  though  the  Germans,  apparently  emboldened 
by  news  from  their  aviators  that  the  French  were  with- 
drawing, looked  for  a  time  as  if  they  meant  to  continue 
the  attack,  particularly  on  his  left  wing  ;  but  by  noon  the 
movement  was  well  under  way,  and  the  Germans  seemed 
content  to  let  him  go.3 

General  Maunoury's  Army  had  also  received  orders 
to  retire,  and  had  fallen  back,  after  sharp  fighting,  from 
the  Avre  south-westward  to  a  line  from  Estrees  St. 
Denis  (where  his  right  was  within  five  miles  of  the  British 
at  Compiegne)  to  Quiry.  Von  Kluck  had  shown  signs  of  a 
change  of  direction,  for  his  left  or  inner  wing  had  wheeled 
nearly  due  south,  though  his  right  was  still,  for  the  present, 
moving  south-west  upon  Amiens.  This  seemed  to  indicate, 
though  as  yet  the  movement  was  too  imperfectly  developed 
to  make  it  certain,  that  von  Kluck  either  considered 
Maunoury's  force  to  be  for  the  moment  powerless  for  any 
offensive  action,  or  that  he  considered  himself  to  have 
gained  the  position  that  he  desired  for  the  envelopment  of 

1  See  p.  227. 

2  A  second  attempt  was  made  to  destroy  this  bridge  after  dark  ;   but 
Major  Barstow  and  the  men  of  his  party  were  killed  by  a  volley  at  about 
fifteen  yards'  range,  fired,  according  to  Vogel,  by  the  cyclists  of  the  Guard 

3  The  Second  Army  was  given  a  rest  day  on  the  31st  (Biilow,  p.  44, 
Kluck,  p.  76). 


the  western  flank  of  the  Allied  Army.  The  British  Army 
he  reckoned,  as  the  German  official  bulletins  testify,  to 
have  been  thoroughly  beaten  on  the  26th  and  following 
days;  and,  as  from  a  captured  letter  he  heard  of  Sir 
John  French's  anxiety  to  give  it  rest,1  his  appreciation 
in  this  respect  was  less  faulty  than  it  may  since  have 
seemed.  If  Maunoury's  force  could  also  be  dismissed  as 
negligible,  there  was  nothing  to  hinder  von  Kluck  from 
wheeling  south-east  against  the  open  left  flank  of  the 
French  Fifth  Army,  annihilating  it  in  conjunction  with 
von  Billow,  and  then  rolling  up  the  French  line  from  west 
to  east.2 

General  Joffre,  for  his  part,  on  realizing  that  his  counter- 
stroke  at  Guise  had  not  wholly  fulfilled  his  hopes,  and  as 
the  British  Commander-in-Chief  had  expressed  his  inability 
on  the  29th  to  take  the  offensive,  came  to  the  conclusion 
that  he  must  yield  yet  further  ground  before  he  could 
hope  to  deliver  another  and  decisive  one.  He  therefore 
ordered  General  Maunoury  to  fall  back  to  the  line  from 
Senlis,  through  Creil  and  Clermont,  to  Beauvais  (35  miles 
west  of  Compiegne),  and  requested  Sir  John  French  to 
continue  to  fill  the  gap  between  General  Lanrezac  and 
General  Maunoury.  The  Field-Marshal  agreed,  and  at 
5.15  P.M.  issued  orders  3  for  his  army  to  move  south-west, 
the  I.  Corps  and  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  to  the  area  about 
Villers  Cotterets  ;  the  II.  Corps,  on  the  west  of  the  I. 
Corps,  to  the  area  Feigneux — Bethisy  St.  Martin — Cre*py 
en  Valois  ;  the  III.  Corps  further  to  the  north-west,  to  the 
area  St.  Sauveur — Verberie,  and  the  Cavalry  Division, 
most  westerly  of  all,  to  the  line  of  the  Oise  beyond  Ver- 
berie. General  Allenby  was  subsequently  informed  that,  as 
the  French  had  closed  in  on  the  left,  he  could  use  the  area 
between  the  III.  Corps  and  the  river. 


Sketch  4.        On  the  31st,  accordingly,  the  British  resumed  their 

Maps  a,  4  march  under  the  same  trying  conditions  of  dust,   heat 

&  16'        and  thirst  as  on  the  previous  day.     The  I.  Corps  opened 

the    operations   with    the   passage    of   the  Aisne  in   two 

columns,  at  Soissons  and  just  west  of  it.     The  transport 

was  often  in  difficulties,  owing  to  the  steep  gradients  of 

1  Kluck,  p.  81. 

2  Billow  had  called  upon  Kluck  for  this  very  purpose.    See  p.  233. 

3  Appendix  20. 


the  roads  to  the  south  of  the  river,  and  the  scarcity  of  31  Aug. 
water  everywhere  was  a  great  trial  both  to  men  and  horses.  1914' 
Once  again  the  infantry  was  wholly  untroubled  by  the 
enemy — the  men  of  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade  actually  had 
time  for  a  bathe  in  the  Aisne — ,  and  the  cavalry  rear 
guards,  which  covered  the  march,  were  never  really 
pressed.  The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  had  to  keep  some 
Uhlans  at  a  distance  when  crossing  the  Aisne  6  miles  west 
of  Soissons  at  Fontenoy ;  and  heads  of  German  columns 
were  reported  at  Noyon  and  south  of  it  on  the  road  to 
Compiegne.1  In  this  quarter,  west  of  the  Oise,  the  3rd 
Hussars  (4th  Cavalry  Brigade)  were  in  touch  with  hostile 
patrols  from  daybreak  onward,  the  enemy's  force  gradu- 
ally increasing  until  it  drew  the  whole  regiment  into 
action.  The  fight  was,  however,  broken  off  without 
difficulty,  and  at  noon,  the  3rd  Hussars  retired,  having 
suffered  trifling  loss  and  killed  a  good  many  troopers  of 
the  German  3rd  Hussars — the  divisional  cavalry  of  the 
German  ///.  Corps — which,  by  a  curious  coincidence,  were 
opposed  to  them. 

The  heat  of  the  day,  the  difficulty  of  the  country  and 
the  exhaustion  of  the  troops,  however,  compelled  the 
greater  part  of  the  Army  to  stop  short  of  their  intended 
destinations.  The  I.  Corps  halted  for  the  night  on  Map  16. 
the  northern,  instead  of  on  the  western  side,  of  the  Forest 
of  Villers  Cotte"rets,  midway  between  it  and  the  river 
Aisne  :  1st  Division  around  Missy,  2nd  Division  around 
Laversine.  The  left  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  was  near 
Vauxaillon,  12  miles  to  the  north. 

The  II.  Corps  halted  at  Coyolles,  south-west  of  Villers 
Cotterets,  and  at  Cr£py  en  Valois  :  5th  Division  on  the 
east,  3rd  Division  on  the  west. 

The  III.  Corps,  after  a  flank  march  through  the  Forest 
of  Compiegne,  reached  its  allotted  area,  at  the  south- 
western corner  of  the  forest  about  Verberie,  but  at  a 
late  hour,  some  units  not  taking  up  their  billets  before 
10.15  P.M.  It  was  separated  by  a  gap  of  some  five  miles 
from  the  nearest  troops  of  the  II.  Corps  at  Cr£py,  but  in 
touch  with  the  French  on  its  left  through  part  of  the 
Cavalry  Division. 

The  5th  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  halted  in  the  same 
area  as  the  I.  Corps.  Of  the  other  brigades,  the  4th  was 

1  The  German  111.  Corps  crossed  the  Oise  in  two  columns  at  Noyon 
and  Ribecourt,  and  v.  d.  Marwitz's  cavalry  crossed  near  Compiegne 
(see  Kluck's  map). 


with  the  III.  Corps  at  Verberie,  and  the  2nd  west  of  it  at 
Chevrieres,  in  touch  with  the  French  Sixth  Army,  which, 
on  this  evening,  reached  the  Chevrieres — Beauvais  line. 
The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  and  L  Battery  R.H.A.  on  the 
western  flank  of  the  Army  had  moved  out  soon  after  dawn 
on  the  31st  from  Compiegne  on  the  road  towards  Amiens, 
and  had  remained  halted  for  a  considerable  time,  on  the 
watch  for  German  troops  advancing  in  that  quarter. 
Seeing  no  sign  of  any,  the  brigade,  after  a  wide  sweep 
westward,  recrossed  the  Oise  to  Verberie,  and  made  its 
way  to  Ne"ry,  there  to  form  a  link — though  it  could  not  fill 
up  the  gap — between  the  II.  and  III.  Corps.  It  did  not 
reach  its  destination  until  dusk,  and  L  Battery  did  not 
join  it  until  half  an  hour  later. 

Aerial  reconnaissance  upon  this  day  confirmed  the 
fact  that  von  Kluck  had  reached  the  limit  of  his  western 
advance,  and  was  wheeling  south-eastward,  covering  his 
southern  flank  with  his  cavalry.1  At  least  two  cavalry 
divisions  were  known  to  have  reached  the  Oise  during  the 
afternoon  of  the  31st ;  and  it  appeared  that  three  actually 
crossed  the  river  between  Noyon  and  Compiegne,  two  of 
which  were  reported  to  be  moving  east  upon  Vauxaillon, 
while  the  third  was  passing  through  Bailly  (8  miles 
north-east  of  Compiegne)  at  2.30  P.M.2  The  capture  of 
a  trooper  of  the  German  8th  Hussars,  by  the  2/Royal 
Welch  Fusiliers  after  a  brush  with  a  German  patrol  towards 
dusk  to  the  north-west  of  Verberie,  seemed  to  indi- 
cate the  presence  of  the  German  J$h  Cavalry  Division  in 
this  quarter.  A  heavy  German  column,  reckoned  to  be 
ten  thousand  strong,  was  also  reported  to  have  reached 
Gournay  (about  eight  miles  north-west  of  Compiegne)  at 
3  P.M.,  and  to  be  moving  south.8  A  captured  order  issued 
to  the  8th  Division  of  the  German  IV.  Corps  from  Beau- 
court  (14  miles  south-east  of  Amiens)  at  6.45  A.M.  on  the 
31st,  revealed  the  project  which  was  in  von  Kluck's  mind 
at  the  time.  The  order  gives  the  information  that  the 
French  troops  (Maunoury's)  on  the  Avre  had  been  defeated 

1  For  the  German  movements  see  next  page. 

8  According  to  von  Kluck,  on  the  31st  von  der  Marwitz's  three  cavalry 
divisions  (2nd,  4th  and  9th)  crossed  the  Oise  at  Thourotte,  and  thence 
marched  through  the  Forest  of  Laigle  to  Attichy  on  the  Aisne,  but 
"Deutsche  Kavallerie"  (p.  76  and  map)  puts  them  at  night  about  six 
miles  south  of  Compiegne.  Von  Richthofen's  two  divisions  (Guard  and 
6th)  reached  Noyon  on  the  30th,  and  moved  on  the  31st  across  the  British 
front  via  Bailly  and  Ribecourt  to  Vauxaillon  and  Soissons.  This  latter 
statement  is  confirmed  by  Vogel. 

8  This  would  appear  to  be  the  5th  Division  of  the  III.  Corps. 


on  the  29th  and  had  withdrawn  ;  that  the  British  were  29-31  Aug. 
retreating  south-eastward  (sic) ;  that  von  Biilow  had  1914- 
defeated  at  Guise  the  French  Fifth  Army,  large  bodies 
of  which  were  retiring  through  La  Fere  ;  and  sets  forth 
that  the  task  of  the  German  First  Army  is  to  cut  off  its 
retreat.  "  Again,  therefore,  we  must  call  upon  the  troops 
for  forced  marches." *•  However,  at  the  moment,  the  one 
thing  clear  to  Sir  John  French  was  that  the  German  First 
Army,  which  had  practically  left  the  British  Army  alone 
since  the  26th,  was  again  closing  in  upon  it  in  great  force, 
and  that  he  must  avoid  serious  collision  with  it  until  the 
time  for  General  Joffre's  counter-stroke  should  be  ripe. 
He  therefore  issued  his  orders  2  for  the  retreat  to  be  con- 
tinued on  the  morrow. 

29TH  TO  31sT  AUGUST 

The   movements   of  the   German  right  wing   on   the  Sketch  5. 
30th  and  31st  August  had  a  decisive  effect  on  the  campaign.  J*??8*4' 

i       f  •          i  •  -i  1.11  o    •          15  &  16. 

Instead  of  pursuing  his  march  towards  the  lower  Seme, 
as  ordered  by  O.H.L.  on  the  28th,  and  making  a  wide 
sweep  which  would  have  caught  in  it  General  Maunoury's 
Army  and  the  B.E.F.,  von  Kluck  wheeled  his  Army  south- 
eastwards  towards  the  Oise,  in  response  to  von  Billow's 
request  that  he  should  help  him  to  exploit  the  supposed 
success  in  the  battle  of  Guise  and  finish  off  the  French 
Fifth  Army.  The  messages  are  of  interest. 

Von  Kluck  says :  "  At  5.55  P.M.  on  30th  a  wireless 
"  message  was  received  from  Second  Army  Headquarters : 
"  '  Enemy  decisively  beaten  to-day ;  strong  forces  re- 
"  '  tiring  on  La  Fere.  The  British,  who  were  barring  the 
"  '  Oise  south-west  of  La  Fere,  are  also  retreating,  some  in 
"  '  a  southerly,  some  in  a  south-easterly  direction.'  It  was 
"  followed  by  a  second  message  at  6.30  P.M.  '  To  gain 
"  '  the  full  advantages  of  the  victory  a  wheel  inwards  of 
"  '  the  First  Army,  pivoted  on  Chauny,  towards  the  line 
"  *  La  Fere — Laon  is  highly  desirable.'  ' 

Von  Biilow  does  not  give  these  messages,  but  says  that 
on  the  29th,  "  The  First  Army  was  asked  by  wireless  to 
"support  the  Second  Army  on  the  30th,  and  at  7.5  P.M. 

1  Hauptmann  Bloem  relates  further  that  the  three  battalion  com- 
manders of  his  regiment  made  a  protest  to  the  regimental  commander 
with  regard  to  the  excessive  marching  and  were  met  by  the  brief  reply 
"  Sweat  saves  blood." 

2  Appendix  21. 


"  on  the  30th  the  following  information  was  received  from 
"  the  First  Army  :  '  Right  wing  of  First  Army  has  thrown 
" '  the  enemy  over  the  Avre.  Will  advance  to-morrow 
"  '  against  the  Oise  section  Compiegne — Chauny.' '  Von 
Kluck  likewise  does  not  give  this  message,  but  admits  that 
"  during  the  evening  of  the  30th  August  O.H.L.  was 
"informed  that  the  First  Army  had  wheeled  round  to- 
"  wards  the  Oise  and  would  advance  on  the  31st  by 
"Compiegne  and  Noyon  to  exploit  the  success  of  the 
66  Second  Army." 

The  German  Supreme  Command  concurred  in  the 
proposed  move,  replying  when  it  was  reported  : — "  The 
"  movement  begun  by  the  First  Army  is  in  accordance  with 
"the  wishes  of  O.H.L."  Fortunately  von  Kluck  had 
wasted  time  by  his  thrust  in  the  air  westwards  after 
Le  Cateau  and  his  assistance  to  von  Billow  came  too 

The  leading  corps  of  the  German  First  Army,  the 
IX.  and  III.,  managed  to  cross  the  Oise  between  Chauny 
and  Bailly  on  the  31st  and  reached  the  line  Vezaponin — 
Vic — Attichy,  12  miles  beyond,  with  the  //.  Cavalry  Corps 
on  their  right  front ;  the  IV.  and  //.  swung  round  behind 
them  to  the  line  Mareuil — Tricot — Maignelay,  west  and 
abreast  of  Noyon,  with  the  IV.  Reserve  still  further  in  rear, 
in  and  south  of  Amiens.  Thus,  on  that  day,  German  corps 
were  moving  south-eastwards  north  of  the  Aisne,  whilst  the 
B.E.F.  was  marching  more  or  less  south-westwards  on  the 
other  side  of  that  river.  Von  Kluck,  therefore,  thinking 
by  "  extraordinary  forced  marches "  to  outflank  the 
Allies,1  was  actually  advancing  into  the  net  that  Joffre 
had  in  preparation  for  him.2 

1  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  104. 

2  The  following  description  of  von  Kluck  at  Lassigny  (12  miles  north 
of  Compiegne)  on  the  30th  August  1914,  by  M.  Albert  Fabre,  Conseiller 
a  la  Cour  d'appel  de  Paris  (given  in  M.  Hanotaux's  "  Histoire  illustree  de 
la  Guerre  de  1914,"  Tome  8,  p.  158),  seems  worthy  of  quotation.     The 
general  had  dejeuner  at  M.  Fabre's  villa  and  gave  him  a  "  safeguard  " 
for  the  house  signed  by  his  own  hand  : 

"  Bientdt,  un  mouvement  se  produisit  parmi  les  officiers  qui  se  rangerent 
'  devant  la  porte  de  la  propriete.    Une  automobile  s'arreta.     Un  omcier 

*  d'allure   impressionnante  et  arrogante   en   descendit.     II  s'avan$a   seul 
'  jusqu'au  milieu  du  terre-plein  de  la  villa.     II  etait  grand,  majestueux,  il 
'  avait  le  visage  rase  et  ravag6,  les  traits  durs,  le  regard  effrayant.     II  tenait, 
'  a  la  main  droite,  un  fusil  de  soldat ;  sa  main  gauche  etait  appuyee  sur  la 
'crosse  d'un  revolver  d'ordonnance.     II  fit  plusieurs  tours  sur  lui-meme 

*  en  frappant  le  sol  de  la  crosse  de  son  fusil  et  s'arreta  dans  une  pose 

*  th6atrale.    Personne  ne  semblait  oser  1'approcher.    Le  personnage  avait 

*  1'air  veritablement  terrible.     J'eus  la  vision  d'Attila.     C'etait  le  trop 
'  fameux  von  Kluck." 


The  German  Second  Army  rested  on  the  31st  after  31  Aug. 
its  battle  at  Guise  on  the  previous  two  days,  as  already   1914< 

1  Hauptmann  Brinckmann  of  the  Second  Army  staff  came  over  and 
reported  to  the  First  Army,  that  the  Second  Army  "  was  exhausted  by  the 
battle  of  Guise  and  unable  to  pursue  "  (Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  109).  Billow 
says  :  "  On  the  81st  the  troops  of  the  Second  Army  were  placed  in  positions 
of  readiness  for  the  attack  on  La  Fere  "  (p.  44). 




1ST   SEPTEMBER    1914 

(See  Sketches  4  &  5  ;  Maps  4,  17,  18) 

Sketch  4.  G.H.Q.  operation  orders 1  sent  out  at  8.50  P.M.  on  the 
Maps  4  &  3ist  August  from  Dammartin  en  Goele  gave  the  information 
that  the  enemy  appeared  to  have  completed  his  westerly 
movement  and  to  be  wheeling  to  the  south,  and  that  large 
columns  were  advancing  in  a  general  south  or  south- 
easterly direction  on  Noyon — Compiegne,  covered  by  at 
least  two  cavalry  divisions  which  had  reached  the  Oise 
that  afternoon.  The  following  movements  towards  the 
south-west,  marches  of  some  ten  to  fourteen  miles,  if 
all  divisions  reached  their  destinations  on  the  31st,  were 
ordered  to  be  carried  out  next  day  : — 

The  I.  Corps  to  move  to  the  area  La  Ferte  Milon — 
Betz  ;  the  II.  Corps  to  Betz — Nanteuil ;  the  III.  Corps 
to  Nanteuil — Baron ;  and  the  Cavalry  Division  to  Baron 
— Mont  1'Eveque.  Special  instructions  were  given  that 
the  rear  guard  of  the  III.  Corps  was  to  reach  a  line  drawn 
east  and  west  through  Nery  by  6  A.M.  ;  but,  owing  to  the 
lateness  of  the  hour  at  which  many  units  arrived  at  their 
billets,  General  Pulteney  was  obliged  to  represent  that 
this  was  impossible.  In  obedience  to  the  spirit  of  the 
order,  however,  he  reported  that  the  transport  of  his 
corps  would  move  off  at  1  A.M. 

The  night  passed  quietly,  with  rather  less  than  the 
usual  disturbances  and  alarms,  and  there  was  no  indication 
that  there  would  be  contact  with  the  enemy  next  day. 
Several  small  actions,  however,  did  take  place  on  the  1st 
September.  They  might  be  dismissed  in  a  few  words, 

1  Appendix  21. 


were  it  not  that  they  show  that  the  British  were  more  i  Sept. 
than  able  to  hold  their  own  when  fortune  brought  them   1914- 
to  grips  with  the  enemy. 

Dawn  broke  with  dense  mist,  presaging  another  day 
of  excessive  heat.  The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  and  L  Battery 
at  Nery  had  been  ordered  to  be  ready  to  resume  their 
march  at  4.30  A.M.,  but,  since  it  was  impossible  to  see 
anything  two  hundred  yards  away,  this  was  counter- 
manded, and  they  were  directed  to  stand  fast  until  5  A.M. 
The  men  were  busy  preparing  their  breakfasts  and  watering 
their  horses  when,  at  5.30  A.M.,  the  mist  being  as  thick 
as  ever,  a  patrol  of  the  llth  Hussars  returned  with  the 
report  that  it  had  ridden  into  a  body  of  German  cavalry 
in  the  fog,  and  had  been  hunted  back  to  Nery.  Im- 
mediately afterwards  high  -  explosive  shells  burst  over 
the  village,  and  there  was  a  roar  of  guns,  machine  guns 
and  rifle  fire  from  the  heights,  little  more  than  six  hundred 
yards  distant,  that  overlook  the  eastern  side  of  the  village. 
The  horses  of  the  Bays  took  fright  and  galloped  down 
the  road  to  the  north.  The  battery  was  in  mass,  with 
the  horses  hooked  in  and  poles  down  ;  men  and  horses 
began  to  fall  at  once  under  German  fire,  and  the  battery 
commander  was  knocked  over  and  temporarily  disabled 
whilst  hurrying  back  from  brigade  headquarters.  In  his 
absence,  Captain  Bradbury,  with  the  help  of  the  other 
officers  and  of  such  men  as  were  not  busy  with  the  horses, 
unlimbered  three  guns  and  man-handled  them  round  so 
as  to  reply  to  the  German  batteries  which  were  taking 
him  in  flank.  One  gun  was  almost  instantly  put  out  of 
action  by  a  direct  hit.  The  other  two  opened  fire,  but 
had  hardly  done  so  before  the  gun  under  Lieut.  Giffard 
was  silenced,  he  and  every  man  of  his  detachment  being 
killed  or  wounded. 

The  remaining  two  subalterns  now  joined  Captain 
Bradbury  at  the  third  gun,  and  immediately  afterwards 
Lieut.  Campbell  was  killed,  but  the  one  gun  remained  in 
action  against  the  German  twelve  with  good  effect.  In 
vain  the  enemy  concentrated  his  fire  on  it ;  he  could  not 
silence  it.  Meantime,  the  three  cavalry  regiments  had 
manned  the  eastern  face  of  the  village,  secured  the  northern 
and  southern  exits  and  opened  fire,  particularly  with  their 
machine  guns.  The  German  cavalrymen  pushed  their 
way  dismounted  to  within  five  hundred  yards  of  the  village, 
but  no  nearer.  Towards  6  A.M.  Brigadier-General  Briggs, 
after  strengthening  his  own  right,  ordered  two  squadrons 


of  the  5th  Dragoon  Guards,  his  last  remaining  reserve, 
to  attack  the  enemy's  right  flank.  They  accordingly 
galloped  northwards  and  then  wheeling  to  the  east,  dis- 
mounted and  pushed  in  to  close  range.  Whilst  the  1st 
Cavalry  Brigade  was  thus  holding  the  German  Jfih  Cavalry 
Division,  in  response  to  General  Briggs'  call  for  assistance, 
just  as  the  mist  began  to  thin  in  the  morning  sun,  the 
4th  Cavalry  Brigade  and  I  Battery  came  on  the  scene 
from  St.  Vaast  on  the  north-west,  followed  by  a  com- 
posite battalion  of  the  Warwickshire  and  Dublins  of  the 
10th  Infantry  Brigade  from  Verberie  from  the  same  direc- 
tion, and  the  1 /Middlesex  from  Saintines  in  the  north. 
Four  guns  of  I  Battery  unlimbered  two  thousand  yards 
south-west  of  the  German  position.  As  it  did  so,  the  fire 
of  L  Battery  ceased ;  and  for  good  reason.  For  some  time 
its  fire  had  been  desultory.  Lieut.  Munday  had  been 
several  times  wounded,  and  man  after  man  was  struck  down 
until  there  only  remained  Captain  Bradbury,  who  was  still 
untouched,  and  Sergt.  Nelson,  who  had  been  wounded. 
Battery -Sergeant -Major  Dorrell  then  joined  them,  and 
immediately  Captain  Bradbury,  whilst  fetching  ammuni- 
tion from  a  wagon  twenty  yards  off,  fell  mortally  wounded. 
The  survivors  continued  to  fire  until  the  last  round  was 
expended,  and  then — but  not  till  then — L  Battery  was 

I  Battery  opened  fire  about  8  A.M.  and  speedily  silenced 
the  German  artillery,  and  the  enemy  began  to  draw  off. 
He  made  an  attempt  to  save  his  guns,  but  the  teams  were 
caught  by  I  Battery,  and  the  men  trying  to  man-handle 
the  guns  back  were  shot  down  by  machine-gun  fire ; 
nevertheless,  four  out  of  the  twelve  were  carried  off,  only, 
as  will  be  seen,  to  fall  into  British  hands  next  day.  The 
1 /Middlesex  under  Major  Rowley  followed  by  a  squadron 
of  the  llth  Hussars  charged  into  the  batteries,  to  find  that 
there  was  not  a  live  German  left  near  them.  The  Hussars 
thereupon  pressed  on  in  pursuit  for  a  mile  until  they  were 
recalled,  capturing  seventy-eight  prisoners  belonging  to 
every  regiment  of  the  J^ih  Cavalry  Division.  By  8.45  A.M. 
the  action  was  over. 

There  can  be  no  doubt  that  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade 
was  taken  by  surprise  ;  but  it  is  not  less  certain  that  the 
German  4th  Cavalry  Division  was  equally  unaware  of  the 
near  presence  of  a  British  force.  Indeed,  in  an  intercepted 
German  wireless  message,  it  was  reported  that  the  division 
had  been  surprised  in  its  bivouac  at  Ne*ry  and  surrounded 


by  considerable  hostile  forces.1  Captain  Bradbury  died  1  Sept. 
very  shortly  after  he  was  hit,  and  never  received  the  1914- 
Victoria  Cross  which  was  awarded  to  him,  to  his  gallant 
companion,  Sergeant  Nelson,  and  to  Battery-Sergeant- 
Major  Dorrell.  The  casualties  of  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade 
did  not  exceed  one  hundred  and  thirty-five  officers  and 
men  killed  and  wounded  ;  and  of  these  five  officers  and 
forty-nine  men  belonged  to  L  Battery.  Among  the  killed 
was  Colonel  Ansell  of  the  5th  Dragoon  Guards,  who  had 
already  distinguished  himself  at  Elouges.  The  German 
casualties  are  unknown.  They  can  hardly  have  been 
fewer,  and  were  probably  more  numerous,  than  the  British. 
This  was  the  first  encounter  with  the  enemy  on  the  1st 



1  For  German  movements  see  p.  246. 

*  A  German  account  of  Nery  by  an  officer  of  the  18th  Dragoon  Regi-  Map  4. 
ment  (of  the  4th  Cavalry  Division)  has  appeared  in  "  Mecklenburgs  S6hne 
im  Weltkriege,"  Heft  13.  He  states  that  the  three  divisions  of  von  der 
Marwitz's  Cavalry  Corps  were  sent  forward  at  4  A.M.  on  the  31st  to  recon- 
noitre towards  Paris,  and  that  his  division  marched  without  any  halt 
worth  mentioning  ;  this  agrees  with  the  statements  of  prisoners,  who  said 
that  they  had  made  a  forced  march  of  26  hours  to  get  to  Nery.  At  dawn 
the  advanced  guard  reported  a  British  bivouac  at  Nery,  and  General  von 
Gamier  at  first  ordered  the  division  to  deploy  and  charge,  but,  the  ground 
being  found  unsuitable,  this  was  changed  to  an  attack  on  foot,  which 
progressed  to  within  500  yards  of  the  village.  British  reinforcements  then 
came  up  and  "  we  held  our  ground  against  greatly  superior  numbers  until 
**  2  P.M.  (sic).  We  then  had  to  withdraw  or  be  destroyed.  The  brigades 
"  were  therefore  directed  to  get  through  independently  as  best  they  could." 
Nothing  is  said  about  the  guns.  The  Dragoon  brigade  apparently  fled 
back  into  the  forest  of  Compiegne.  After  dark  it  marched  to  the  south- 
west (through  Baron,  according  to  inhabitants)  and  hid  in  the  woods  15 
miles  south-west  of  Nery  for  30  hours.  On  the  3rd  September  it  escaped 
via  Ermenonville  back  to  Nanteuil.  The  traces  found  by  the  B.E.F.  are 
noticed  in  the  next  chapter. 

According  to  "  Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  pp.  78, 79,  the  4th  Cavalry  Division 
at  first  withdrew  eastward,  but,  hearing  the  sound  of  firing  at  St.  Sauveur 
in  the  north  and  at  Crepy  en  Valois  to  the  east  (in  actions  described  later 
in  the  text)  decided  that  the  path  to  safety  lay  to  the  south,  and  the 
brigades  moved  independently  in  that  direction  with  the  hope  of  concealing 
themselves  in  the  forest  and  of  doubling  back  north  when  the  Allies  had 
passed.  This  they  actually  accomplished,  though  at  the  cost  of  their  re- 
maining guns  and  of  a  considerable  amount  of  transport  and  equipment. 
The  brigades  hid,  without  food  or  ammunition,  in  the  great  woods  on  either 
side  of  Rozieres  (just  north-east  of  Baron)  and  saw  the  British  columns 
march  down  the  main  road  through  Baron.  "  On  account  of  want  of 
"  ammunition,  an  attack  of  the  isolated  brigades  on  the  numerically 
"  superior  infantry  columns  was  not  possible."  They  remained  in  hiding 
until  the  afternoon  of  the  2nd  September. 

Von  Kluck  merely  states  that  after  a  successful  surprise  the  4th  Cavalry 
Division  became  seriously  engaged  with  superior  forces,  and  incurred  heavy 
losses.  Von  Kuhl  ("  Marne,"  p.  121)  says  that  it  suffered  so  heavily  that  on 
the  3rd  September  it  was  not  reassembled  and  was  not  able  to  advance 
on  the  4th  with  the  rest  of  the  corps.  Perhaps  this  is  the  reason  why  it 
remained  on  the  Ourcq  with  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps.  Altogether,  the 



Maps  4  Further  east,  about  Mermont  and  the  ground  north 
&  17'  of  Crepy  en  Valois,  the  outpost  line  of  the  5th  Division, 
held  by  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade,  was  attacked  at  6  A.M. 
by  mounted  troops  of  the  IV.  Corps  and  by  Jdger.1  The 
pressure  did  not  become  serious  until  10  A.M.,  when  the 
5th  Division,  which  had  delayed  its  march  in  consequence 
of  the  fighting  at  Ne*ry,  began  to  retire ;  it  then  fell  chiefly 
upon  the  West  Kents  on  the  left  of  the  line,  where  the 
Germans  delivered  an  infantry  attack  from  Bethancourt 
(4  miles  due  north  of  Crepy).  The  West  Kents  were 
supported  by  a  section  of  the  119th  Battery,  which  came 
into  action  within  one  hundred  yards  of  the  firing  line, 
opened  at  fourteen  hundred  yards'  range  and,  firing  one 
hundred  and  fifty  rounds  in  five  minutes,  brought  the 
Germans  to  a  standstill.  By  noon  the  outposts  having 
become  rear  guard  had  fallen  back  to  the  south  of  Crepy ; 
the  Germans  did  not  follow  except  with  cavalry  patrols, 
and  all  trouble  ceased  on  this  part  of  the  line.  On  the 
right  flank,  the  2nd  Duke  of  Wellington's  holding  the 
cross  roads  at  "  Raperie  "  (1  mile  N.N.E.  of  Crepy),  were 
supported  by  the  two  remaining  batteries  of  the  XXVII. 
Brigade  R.F.A. ;  and  under  cover  of  these  guns  the 
brigadier  was  able  to  withdraw  his  battalions  with  little 


Maps  4        Still  further  to  the  east,  the  I.  Corps  marched  at  4  A.M. 

&  17-  by  two  roads  through  the  forest  of  Villers  Cotterets.  The 
1st  Division  from  Missy  took  the  Soissons  road,  which 
skirts  the  eastern  side  of  Villers  Cotterets,  and  turns  thence 
south-eastward  on  La  Ferte"  Milon. 

The  2nd  Division,  on  the  west  of  the  1st,  moved  by  the 
road  which  passes  through  Vivieres 2  and  Rond  de  la  Reine 
and  the  western  side  of  Villers  Cotterets  south-west  upon 
Pisseleux  and  Boursonne. 

1st  September  was  decidedly  to  the  disadvantage  of  the  German  cavalry, 
for,  as  will  be  seen,  the  2nd  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions  were  unable  to  advance, 
far  less  pursue  as  ordered  (see  footnote  2,  p.  246). 

1  According  to  von  Kluck  the  IV.  Corps  was  in  action  north  of  Crepy  en 
Valois  later  in  the  afternoon,  and  the  first  contact  was  with  the  five  Jdger 
battalions  of  von  der  Marwitz's  Cavalry  Corps  ("Deutsche  Kavallerie," 
p.  77). 

8  Spelt  Viviers  on  some  maps. 


The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  covered  the  right  rear  from  i  Sept. 
the  region  of  Montgobert,  and  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade   1914- 
the  left  rear  from  Mortefontaine  and  Taillefontaine,  both 
outside  the  forest. 

Here  again  it  was  the  western  flank  that  was  first 
engaged,  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  being  attacked  on 
reaching  Taillefontaine  (5  miles  N.N.W.  of  Villers  Cotterets) 
by  a  force  of  all  arms  advancing  from  the  north.1  As  the 
brigade  drew  back  to  the  north-western  corner  of  the  Forest 
of  Villers  Cotterets,  the  4th  Hussars  were  continuously 
engaged  until  past  noon,  and  lost  their  commanding  officer, 
Lt.- Colonel  Hogg,  in  the  sharp  fighting  in  the  woodlands. 

A  little  to  the  east  of  Taillefontaine  the  4th  (Guards) 
Brigade  was  covering  the  retirement  of  the  2nd  Division, 
with  the  Irish  Guards  and  2/Coldstream,  under  Lieutenant- 
Colonel  the  Hon.  George  Morris  of  the  former  regiment,  in 
position  between  Vivieres  and  Puiseux,  and  the  2/Grenadier 
and  3/Coldstream  in  second  line  at  Rond  de  la  Reine. 
About  10  A.M.  Colonel  Morris's  troops  were  attacked  by  a 
force  of  all  arms  moving  from  north-west  to  south-east. 
The  9th  Battery  replied  effectively  to  the  German  guns,  and 
the  firing  so  far  died  away  that  Colonel  Morris  sent  back 
the  2/Coldstream  with  orders  to  retire  to  the  railway  north 
of  Villers  Cotterets,  and  prepared  to  follow  them  with  the 
Irish  Guards.  Just  then,  however,  he  received  a  verbal 
order  from  the  brigadier  not  to  fall  back  too  fast,  since  it 
was  intended  to  give  the  main  body  of  the  division  a  long 
halt  from  10  A.M.  till  1  P.M.  The  2/Coldstream  were  already 
gone  past  recall,  owing  to  the  density  of  the  forest,  but  the 
Irish  Guards  stood  fast,  and,  about  10.45  A.M.,  were  again 
and  more  seriously  attacked.  A  company  of  the  Grenadiers 
was  sent  forward  to  reinforce  them,  but  before  the  Irish 
Guards  could  be  extricated,  the  Germans  opened  a  direct 
attack  upon  the  western  front  and  flank  of  the  second  line. 
This  line  was  drawn  up  along  a  grass  ride  which  followed 
the  highest  ridge  in  the  forest,  and  passes  from  west  to 
east  through  the  open  space  called  Rond  de  la  Reine  to 
another  open  space,  about  a  mile  distant,  named  Croix  de 
Belle  Vue.  The  3/Coldstream  were  on  the  west  of  Rond 
de  la  Reine,  being  widely  extended  so  as  to  block  the 
numerous  rides  that  run  from  north  to  south  towards 

1  Probably  the  advanced  guard  of  the  ///.  Corps.  "  Schlachten  und 
Gefechte  "  states  that  the  ///.  Corps  and  the  2nd  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions 
fought  at  Villers  Cotterets,  on  the  1st  September.  "  Deutsche  Kavallerie," 
p.  77,  however,  states  the  two  cavalry  divisions  were  in  action  near  Ver- 
berie  and  spent  the  night  in  two  villages  north  of  it. 

VOL.  I  R 


Haramont,  and  therefore  had  wide  intervals  between  com- 
panies. The  2/Grenadiers  were  on  the  right.  The  Germans 
soon  detected  the  gaps  between  the  companies  of  the  Cold- 
stream  and  penetrated  between  them  ;  but  the  battalion, 
though  compelled  to  fall  back,  did  so  very  slowly,  each 
isolated  party  fighting  vigorously  as  best  it  could.  The 
Grenadiers  were  in  like  case,  and  behaved  in  like  manner, 
and  both  battalions  were  still  close  to  their  original  positions 
when  company  by  company  the  Irish  Guards  at  last 
joined  them.  Colonel  Morris  was  killed  early  in  this  first 
serious  engagement  of  his  regiment.  Brigadier-General 
Scott-Kerr  was  severely  wounded  while  leaving  Rond  de 
la  Reine,  the  Germans  having  brought  up  a  machine  gun 
which  raked  the  broad  main  ride.  Thus  there  was  no  one 
for  a  time  in  general  command  ;  but  the  three  British 
battalions  were  so  much  intermixed  and  the  fighting  in  the 
woods  was  unavoidably  so  confused,  that  little  or  no 
control  was  possible.  However,  Grenadiers,  Coldstream 
and  Irish  fought  their  way  back,  contesting  every  inch  of 
ground,  to  Villers  Cotte*rets,  the  3/Coldstream  retiring  on 
their  second  battalion,  which  was  now  on  the  railway  line 
just  to  the  north  of  the  town,  and  the  remainder  further  to 
the  east.  The  17th  Battery  was  in  position  north  of  Villers 
Cotte"rets  to  support  them,  but  did  not  fire,  the  Guards 
having  beaten  off  their  assailants  for  the  present.  It  was 
by  now  about  2  P.M. 

Meanwhile  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade  had  been  halted 
about  a  mile  south  of  Pisseleux,  immediately  south  of 
Villers  Cott6rets,  to  cover  the  retreat  of  the  Guards,  two 
companies  of  the  Royal  Berkshire  being  deployed  upon 
either  flank  of  the  9th  Battery.  The  5th  Infantry  Brigade 
had  been  ordered  by  2nd  Division  Headquarters  to  entrench 
in  echelon  a  little  further  to  the  south-west,  to  serve  as  a 
rallying  point  for  both  brigades.  Through  the  5th  In- 
fantry Brigade  the  Guards  retired,  with  the  2/Coldstream 
as  rear  guard  ;  the  17th  Battery  moved  with  them  and 
unlimbered  on  the  right  of  the  9th.  Towards  4  P.M.  the 
Germans,  having  apparently  moved  south-west  from 
Villers  Cotterets,  opened  heavy  rifle  fire  from  the  west  of 
the  railway,  while  their  horse  artillery  engaged  the  British 
batteries.  These  last,  after  a  sharp  duel,  were  ordered  to 
retire  ;  but  the  teams  of  the  17th  Battery  could  not  come 
up  until  the  1 /King's  had  pushed  forward  to  the  western 
side  of  the  railway  and  effectually  checked  the  advance  of 
the  German  infantry  and  artillery.  Fighting  lasted  until 


6  P.M.,  when  the  King's  withdrew,  under  cover  of  the  i  Sept. 
2/Coldstream,  and  the  action  came  to  an  end.  The  number  1914- 
of  the  enemy  engaged  was  very  superior  to  the  British.1 
The  fight  cost  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  over  three  hundred 
officers  and  men,  and  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade  one  hundred 
and  sixty.  Two  platoons  of  the  Grenadiers  were  sur- 
rounded and  killed  at  Rond  de  la  Reine,  fighting  to  the  last 
man.  Some  weeks  later  it  was  ascertained  from  prisoners 
that  the  Germans  had  suffered  very  heavily  in  this 
affair,  having  lost  all  sense  of  direction  and  fired  on  each 


During  these  clashes  of  the  rear  guards,  the  main  body  sketch  4. 
of  the  British  Army  tramped  on  through  intense  heat  MaP  18- 
until  far  into  the  evening.  The  1st  Division  reached  its 
halting  place  about  La  Ferte  Milon,  16  miles  from  its 
starting  point,  between  7  and  9  P.M.  The  2nd  Division  and 
the  3rd  and  5th  Cavalry  Brigades  arrived  at  Betz  (8  miles 
west  of  La  Ferte  Milon),  and  the  villages  to  the  east  of  it, 
after  a  nineteen-mile  march,  from  one  to  two  hours  later.  Of 
the  II.  Corps,  the  3rd  Division  marched  quite  untroubled  to 
the  villages  south-west  of  Betz,  while  the  5th  Division, 
with  greater  precautions,  but  equally  unhindered  after 
the  first  bickering  of  the  morning,  came  into  Nanteuil 
(7  miles  west  of  Betz)  between  7.30  and  9  P.M. 

On  the  extreme  west,  after  the  fight  at  Nery,  the  llth  Map  4. 
Infantry  Brigade  began  to  withdraw  from  St.  Sauveur 
(3  miles  east  of  Verberie),  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade  being 
already  at  9.30  A.M.  in  position  6  miles  south  of  St. 
Sauveur  between  Mont  Cornon  and  Chamicy.  At  10  A.M. 
the  Germans  2  attacked  the  I/Somerset  L.I.  and  I/Rifle 
Brigade,  which  were  covering  the  retirement  of  the  two 
remaining  battalions  of  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade,  and 
were  beaten  off  with  considerable  loss.  This  ended  the 
British  fighting  in  this  quarter  for  the  day.  At  11  A.M. 
the  2nd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  were  sent  to  take  up  a 
line  from  Mont  Cornon  north-westwards  to  Villeneuve,  and 

1  See  footnote,  p.  241. 

a  The  advanced  guard  of  the  11.  Corps.  Von  Kluck  says  that  "  the 
"  11.  Corps,  supported  by  the  Cavalry  Corps,  became  involved  in  heavy 
"  fighting  for  the  possession  of  the  important  Oise  crossings  at  Verberie  and 
"St.  Sauveur."  The  Provisional  Division  of  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  and 
some  battalions  of  Chausseurs  Alpins,  the  right  of  General  Maunoury's 
Army,  which  was  also  falling  back,  were  engaged  at  Verberie. 


shortly  after  noon  the  4th  Division,  passing  through  them, 
continued  its  march  southward  to  Fresnoy,  Rozieres  and 
Map  is.  Baron,  to  the  west  of  the  5th  Division.  The  Cavalry 
Division  took  up  its  billets  to  the  west  of  the  4th  Division 
along  the  northern  edge  of  the  Forest  of  Ermenonville 
from  Fontaine  to  Mont  1'Eveque.  The  march,  though 
absolutely  unhindered  by  the  enemy,  was  an  anxious  one, 
for  there  were  persistent  rumours  that  German  cavalry  was 
in  the  Forest  of  Ermenonville  to  the  south  of  the  British 
Cavalry  Division.  When  the  1 /Rifle  Brigade  entered 
Rozieres  at  7  P.M.,  they  found  that  three  hundred  Uhlans 
had  just  quitted  the  village  in  great  haste,  leaving  a  machine 
gun  and  sundry  articles  of  equipment  behind  them.1 

During  the  31st  August  several  telegrams  had  passed 
between  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War  and  the  British 
Commander-in- Chief.2  It  appeared  to  the  Cabinet  that 
Sir  John  French  had  determined  to  retire  so  far  out  of  the 
Allied  line  that  he  would  frustrate  their  policy  of  co- 
operating closely  with  the  French  and  rendering  them 
continuous  support ;  the  French  President  and  General 
Joffre  seemed  also  to  be  under  this  impression.3  As  it  was 
difficult  to  judge  of  the  situation  in  London,  it  was  decided 
that  Lord  Kitchener  should  himself  proceed  to  France  and 
discuss  it  verbally  with  the  Commander-in-Chief,  so  as  to 
ensure  that  there  would  be  no  break-down  in  the  relations 
between  the  Chiefs  of  the  French  and  British  Armies. 
Leaving  the  choice  of  the  meeting  place  to  Sir  John  French 
— who  fixed  the  British  Embassy  at  Paris — Lord  Kitchener 
left  London  at  2  A.M.  on  the  1st  September,  crossed  the 

1  These  troops  are  now  known  to  be  the  survivors  of  Nery.     Von 
Kluck  says  that  the  4th  Cavalry  Division    "  incurred    heavy   losses   at 
Rozieres"  (see  footnote  2,  p.  239). 

2  The  telegrams  will  be  found  in  Appendix  22. 

8  According  to  M.  Poincare's  preface  to  the  French  edition  of  Sir 
George  Arthur's  "  Life  of  Lord  Kitchener,"  p.  ix  : — 

"  Field-Marshal  French  operated  with  excessive  independence,  and 
"  strove,  above  all,  to  maintain  his  divisions  intact. 

"  On  Sunday,  30th  August,  General  Joffre,  uneasy  at  seeing  French 
'  hold  himself  thus  aloof,  telephoned  to  M.  Millerand,  the  Minister  of 
'  War,  that  he  feared  the  British  were  not  for  the  moment  disposed  to 
'  fight.  .  .  .  Next  day,  Monday,  the  Commander-in-Chief  of  our  Armies 
'  sent  me  a  liaison  officer  to  beg  me  to  intervene  and  ensure  that  Field- 
'  Marshal  French  should  not  carry  out  his  retreat  too  rapidly,  and  should 
'  make  up  his  mind  to  contain  the  enemy  who  was  on  the  British  front." 

The  President  then  imparted  his  fears  and  the  request  of  General 
Joffre  to  the  British  Ambassador,  Sir  Francis  Bertie.  About  10  P.M.  Sir 
Francis  came  to  the  filysee  with  an  orderly  officer  bearing  a  written 
answer  from  the  British  Commander-in-Chief — "  An  answer,  unfortun- 
ately, not  very  conclusive."  (This  letter  cannot  be  found  in  the  British 
records.  Sir  John  French  in  his  "  1914,"  p.  95,  merely  says,  "  I  refused.") 


Channel  to  Havre  in  a  destroyer,  arrived  in  Paris  about  i  Sept. 
3  P.M.,  met  Sir  John  shortly  after,  and  spent  nearly  three  1914- 
hours  with  him. 

The  result  of  the  interview  was  recorded  in  a  telegram 
sent  by  Lord  Kitchener  to  the  Government  at  7.30  P.M., 
before  he  started  on  his  return  journey.  It  is  as  follows  : 

"  French's  troops  are  now  engaged  in  the  fighting  line,  where 
"  he  will  remain  conforming  to  the  movements  of  the  French 
"  army,  though  at  the  same  time  acting  with  caution  to  avoid 
"  being  in  any  way  unsupported  on  his  flanks." 

On  the  3rd  September,  Sir  John  French,  having  received 
a  copy  of  this  telegram,  replied  : 

"I  fully  understand  your  instructions.  ...  I  am  in  full 
"  accord  with  Joffre  and  the  French." 

The  British  Commander-in  Chief,  on  returning  to 
his  headquarters  at  Dammartin,  20  miles  from  Paris,  at 
6.45  P.M.,  after  the  interview  with  Lord  Kitchener,  found 
that  the  day's  work  had  not  been  unsatisfactory  :  the 
enemy  had  been  shaken  off  after  several  sharp  actions, 
and  the  march,  though  long  and  exhausting  to  the  men, 
had  finally  reunited  the  British  Army  for  the  first  time 
since  the  I.  and  II.  Corps  had  been  separated  on  the  25th 
August.  The  Cavalry  Division  was  in  touch  with  the 
French  cavalry  about  Senlis,  to  the  westwards  of  which, 
to  a  line  from  Creil  to  the  vicinity  of  Beauvais,  General 
Maunoury  had  successfully  brought  back  the  French  Sixth 
Army.  The  left  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  was  at 
Soissons ;  as  it  had  retired  due  south  from  Guise  and  the 
British  Expeditionary  Force  had  marched  south-west  a  day 
ahead,  the  gap  between  the  two  was  widening.  Aerial 
reconnaissance  had  been  difficult  until  the  afternoon,  Sketch  5. 
owing  to  the  mist,  but  from  3  P.M.  onward  the  Flying  MaP  w. 
Corps  sent  in  a  series  of  valuable  observations,  all  tending 
to  confirm  the  previous  reports  of  a  general  wheel  of  von 
Kluck's  army  to  the  south-east.  German  troops  were 
thick  upon  both  banks  of  the  Oise  from  Noyon  southward 
to  Verberie  ;  but  the  greater  number  were  already  on  the 
eastern  side  of  the  river,  and  the  heads  of  heavy  columns 
had  reached  Villers  Cotterets  and  Crepy  en  Valois.  These 
seemed  to  be  wheeling  to  the  south.  It  might  be  that 
this  was  due  to  the  direction  taken  by  the  roads  at  these 
two  points,  but  it  was  judged  most  important  to  withdraw 
the  British  Army  out  of  reach  of  a  night  attack. 

Soon  after  midday  the  corps  commanders  had  been 


warned  by  the  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  that  the  retire- 
ment would  be  continued  on  the  morrow  towards  the 
Marne,  and  roads  had  been  allotted;  but  at  7  P.M.,  on 
realizing  that  the  enemy  was  so  near  and  in  such  force, 
and  that  some  of  his  cavalry  were  actually  behind  the 
British  front,  Sir  John  French  decided  to  continue  the 
retreat  earlier  than  he  had  intended  and  all  the  corps  were 
ordered  to  get  clear  by  a  night  march.1  At  the  same  time, 
G.H.Q.,  to  which  German  cavalry  escaping  from  N6ry  had 
passed  quite  close,  commenced  moving  back  from  Dam- 
martin  to  Lagny. 


Sketch  5.  Turning  back  to  the  movements  of  the  Germans  during 
{.^e  js{.  September,  von  Kluck,  whose  Army  was  now  again 
in  contact  with  the  British,  states  that  he  made  another 
effort  on  that  day  to  catch  them  up.  Their  presence  on 
his  flank  had  compelled  him  to  desist  from  his  attempt  to 
reach  and  roll  up  the  left  flank  of  the  French  Fifth  Army. 
He  therefore  ordered  his  corps  to  turn  south  to  settle  with 
the  British.  His  IX.  Corps  (less  the  17th  Division,  which 
was  still  in  rear,  as  it  had  been  co-operating  with  units  of 
the  Second  Army  in  the  fighting  on  the  Oise  south  of  Mont 
d'Origny  on  the  30th),  III.  Corps  and  IV.  Corps  having 
crossed  the  Aisne  between  Ambleny  and  Compiegne  were 
to  press  southward  ;  the  17.  Corps  was  to  reach  the  Oise 
at  Verberie  ;  the  //.  Cavalry  Corps,  from  near  Compiegne, 
was  to  move  eastwards  to  attack  the  French  in  flank  via 
Villers  Cotterets.2 

As  a  result  of  the  day's  operations,  the  18th  Division 
of  the  IX.  Corps  reached  Longpont  (6  miles  east  of  Villers 

The  ///.  Corps,  marching  on  two  roads  via  Vivieres 
and  Taillefontaine,  came  in  contact  with  the  rear  guard 

1  Appendix  23. 

2  Kluck,  p.  80.     These  orders  seem  to  have  been  altered,  for  "  Deutsche 
Kavallerie,"  p.  76,  says  that  at  4  P.M.  on  the  31st,  von  der  Marwitz  ordered 
"  a  relentless  pursuit  "  (riicksichtslose  Verfolgung)  that  same  night  in  the 
direction  Nanteuil  le  Haudouin.     Led  horses,  bridging  train  and  telegraph 
vehicles  were  left  behind.     The  9th  Cavalry  Division,  followed  by  the  2nd, 
marching  on  the  main  road  Compiegne — Verberie,  was  held  up  at  the  latter 
place  and  St.  Sauveur  east  of  it,  and  got  no  further  on  the  1st  September. 
The  4th  Cavalry  Division  moved  east  of  the  others  and  came  to  Nery,  as  we 
have  seen.     The  five  Jager  battalions  of  the  corps  were  sent  to  Crepy  en 
Valois  and  fought  there.     Kuhl's  "Marne,"  p.  110,  states  that  the  //. 
Cavalry  Corps  was  held  up  at  Verberie,  and  shows  it  on  his  map  aboi  ' 
five  miles  south  of  Nery  on  the  night  of  the  lst/2nd  September. 


of  the  British  I.  Corps  near  Villers  Cotterets,  as  already  i  Sept. 
related,  and  halted  there  for  the  night.  1914- 

The  IV.  Corps,  also  marching  by  two  roads  Compiegne 
—Crepy  and  Choisy — Pierrefonds,  halted  at  Crepy,  after 
its  fight  with  the  5th  Division. 

The  //.  Corps,  after  its  action  at  St.  Sauveur  with  the 
4th  Division  and  later  at  Verberie  with  the  French,  halted 
at  the  latter  place  for  the  night. 

The  IV.  Reserve  Corps,  protecting  the  right  flank, 
reached  Quinquempoix  about  twenty-five  miles  south  of 

The  general  advance  made  by  the  German  First  Army 
on  the  1st  September,  owing  to  the  opposition  with  which 
it  met,  was  under  ten  miles,1  and  von  Kluck  had  not  struck 
to  any  purpose  either  the  French  Fifth  Army  or  the  B.E.F. 

1  See  Kluck's  map. 



(See  Sketches  1,  4,  5  ;  Maps  2,  4,  19,  20,  21,  22) 

Sketch  4.  THE  Army  was  growing  hardened  to  continued  retirements  ; 
Maps  4     but  in  the  I.  Corps,  to  make  the  conditions  easier  for  the 
&  19'        men,  General  Haig  on  the  1st  September  decided  to  send 
off  by  train  from  Villers  Cott6rets  about  half  of  the  am- 
munition carried  by  his  divisional  ammunition  columns, 
and  to  use  the  fifty  empty  waggons  to  carry  kits  and 
exhausted  soldiers.     This  was  an  extreme  measure,  taken 
only  after   mature   deliberation,   but  it  was  more  than 
justified  by  the  result. 

The  next  day  in  pursuance  of  Sir  John  French's  orders, 
the  divisions  began  moving  back  between  1  A.M.  and 
3  A.M.  from  their  billets  between  La  Ferte  Milon  and  Senlis 
to  the  line  of  villages  between  Meaux  and  Dammartin,  a 
march  of  some  twelve  miles.  The  I.  Corps  was  on  the 
right  or  east,  the  II.  Corps  in  the  centre  and  the  III.  Corps 
on  the  left,  with  the  cavalry  on  either  flank  of  the  force. 
It  was  absolutely  unmolested  during  this  move.  The  5th 
Cavalry  Brigade,  which  covered  the  eastern  flank  of  the 
I.  Corps,  heard  news  of  a  German  squadron  moving  from 
Villers  Cott£rets  upon  La  Fert6  Milon,  but  saw  nothing. 
The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  on  the  west  of  the  5th,  Had  been 
in  motion  for  fully  six  hours  and  was  well  south  of  Betz 
before  German  shells  began  to  burst  over  the  extreme  tail 
of  the  rear  guard.  An  hour  or  so  later  six  or  eight 
German  squadrons  were  seen  approaching  Bouillancy,  the 
next  village  south  of  Betz,  but  were  driven  off  by  the  fire 
of  D  and  E  Batteries.  The  brigade,  being  no  further 
troubled,  then  retired  slowly  to  Isles  les  Villenoy  behind 



the  right  of  the  I.  Corps,  where  it  arrived  late  in  the  2  Sept. 

.    ° 


The  three  brigades  of  the  Cavalry  Division  on  the  left 
of  the  B.E.F.  had  been  disturbed  on  the  night  of  the  lst/2nd 
September  by  more  than  one  report  that  the  whole  or 
parts  of  the  German  ffli  Cavalry  Division  were  moving 
south  through  the  Forest  of  Ermenonville  behind  the 
British  left  flank  ;  and  at  2  A.M.  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade, 
on  the  extreme  left,  had  been  ordered  to  march  at  once 
from  Mont  1'Eveque  to  clear  the  defile  through  the  forest 
for  the  division.  The  brigade  moved  off  at  2.30  A.M., 
taking  the  road  through  the  forest  towards  Ermenonville. 
On  debouching  from  the  south-eastern  edge  it  found  the 
road  littered  with  saddles,  equipment  and  clothing.  Some 
enemy  force  had  evidently  been  in  bivouac  there  and 
had  hastily  decamped.  Reports  came  in  from  inhabitants 
that  two  squadrons  of  Uhlans  were  at  Ermenonville  and 
the  next  village  east  of  it ;  but  the  British  were  too  late 
to  intercept  them.  The  enemy  had  withdrawn  rapidly, 
and  in  the  wooded  country  it  was  useless  to  pursue  him. 
Before  reaching  Ermenonville  the  brigade  came  across 
some  motor  lorries  of  the  4th  Divisional  Ammunition 
Column,  which  had  run  into  a  party  of  German  cavalry 
during  the  night,  and  also  four  abandoned  German  guns, 
the  marks  upon  which  proved  that  they  were  part  of 
the  batteries  that  had  been  in  action  at  Nery.  It  may 
be  added  here  that,  except  for  skirmishes  of  cavalry 
patrols,  there  was  no  further  contact  with  the  enemy 
during  the  rest  of  the  retreat. 

Though  the  march  of  the  British  force  this  day  was 
only  a  short  one,  averaging  about  twelve  miles,  and  the 
leading  units  got  in  early,  it  was  evening  before  all  were 
in  their  billets.  The  heat  of  the  day  was  intense  and 
suffocating,  and  made  marching  so  exhausting  that  several 
long  halts  were  ordered.  In  spite  of  these,  there  were 
some  cases  of  heat-stroke. 

The  march  of  the  I.  Corps  proved  specially  trying, 
since  the  valley  of  the  Ourcq,  for  the  first  half  of  the  march, 
formed  an  almost  continuous  defile.  During  the  passage 
of  this  region,  the  divisions  were  directed  to  piquet  the 
high  ground  as  in  mountain  warfare.  The  movement 
presented  a  fine  opportunity  to  a  really  active  and  enter- 
prising enemy,  but  no  such  enemy  appeared. 

An  inhabitant  of  the  district  has  put  on  record  the 
appearance  of  the  British  during  this  period  of  the  retreat : 


"  The  soldiers,  phlegmatic  and  stolid,  march  without 
"  appearing  to  hurry  themselves  ;  their  calm  is  in  striking 
"  contrast  to  the  confusion  of  the  refugees.  They  pass  a 
"  night  in  the  villages  of  the  Ourcq.  It  is  a  pacific  invasion 
"  .  .  .  as  sportsmen  who  have  just  returned  from  a  suc- 
"  cessful  raid,  our  brave  English  eat  with  good  appetite, 
"  drink  solidly,  and  pay  royally  those  who  present  their 
"  bills  ;  .  .  .  and  depart  at  daybreak,  silently  like  ghosts, 
"  on  the  whistle  of  the  officer  in  charge." x 

Sketch  4.        The  position  of  the  Army  at  nightfall  on  the  2nd 

Map  19.    September  was  as  follows  : 

the  villages  Just  north  of  Meaux' 
3rd  Cavalry  Brigade     .     Isles  les  Villenoy,  S.S.W.  of  Meaux. 

II.  Corps      .         .         .In    the    area    Monthyon — Montge— 


III.  Corps    .         .         .     Eve — Dammartin. 

Cavalry  Division  .         .     In  the  area  Thieux — Moussy  le  Vieux 

— Le  Mesnil  Amelot. 

Roughly  speaking,  therefore,  its  front  extended  from 
Meaux  north-west  to  Dammartin.  From  Dammartin  the 
French  Provisional  Cavalry  Division  2  prolonged  the  line 
to  Senlis,  from  which  point  north-westward  through  Creil 
to  Mouy  and  beyond  it  lay  General  Maunoury's  Sixth 
Army.  On  the  right  of  the  British  the  French  Fifth  Army 
was  still  a  good  march  north  of  them,  with  the  left  of  its 
infantry  south-west  of  Fere  en  Tardenois,  some  twenty- 
five  miles  away,  and  its  cavalry  north  of  Chateau  Thierry 
and  somewhat  nearer. 


Map  4.  The  2nd  September  had  thus  passed  more  or  less  un- 
eventfully for  the  troops,  but  aerial  reconnaissance  re- 
vealed interesting  changes  on  the  side  of  the  enemy.  His 
general  march  south-eastward  seemed  for  the  time  to 
have  come  to  an  end,  and  to  have  given  place  to  a  southerly 
movement.  The  general  front  of  von  Kluck's  Army  was 
covered  by  cavalry  from  Villers  Cotterets  through  Crepy 
en  Valois  and  Villeneuve  to  Clermont.3  Behind  it  from 

1  "  Les  Champs  de  1'Ourcq,  September  1914."     By  J.  Roussel-Lepine. 

2  Formed  temporarily  from  the  fittest  units  of  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps. 
8  The  II.  Cavalry  Corps  was,  according  to  von  Kluck,  in  line  between 

the  IV.  and  //.  Corps,  so  part  of  the  covering  cavalry  was  divisional. 


east  to  west  opposite  the  British  were  the  ///.,  IV.  and  2  Sept. 
//.  Corps,  and  there  were  indications  that  the  heads  of  ] 
the  columns  were  halting  to  allow  the  rear  to  close  up, 
as  if  apprehensive  of  danger  from  the  south.  The  IV. 
Reserve  Corps  was  to  the  right  rear  north-west  of  Clermont 
about  St.  Just,  and  the  IX.  Corps  was  east  of  Villers 
Cotte*rets,  on  the  same  alignment  as  the  cavalry.  Up  to 
4  P.M.  no  hostile  troops  of  any  kind  had  passed  a  line,  about 
ten  to  twelve  miles  away,  drawn  from  Mareuil  (at  the 
junction  of  the  Clignon  with  the  Ourcq)  westward  through 
Betz  to  Nanteuil  le  Haudouin.  In  fact,  it  seemed  as 
though  von  Kluck  had  not  foreseen  any  such  collision  with 
the  British  as  had  taken  place  on  the  1st.  Possibly  he 
believed  them  to  have  moved  south-eastward,  and  such, 
indeed,  had  been  their  direction  on  the  30th,  though  on 
the  31st  it  had  been  changed  to  south-west  to  leave  more 
space  for  the  retreat  of  the  French  Fifth  Army.  More- 
over, but  for  the  accident  which  prevented  the  right  and 
centre  of  the  British  Army  from  reaching  the  halting- 
places  ordered  for  the  evening  of  the  31st,  it  is  probable 
that  there  would  have  been  no  serious  collision  at  all 
between  the  British  and  the  Germans  on  the  1st  September, 
but  that  the  Germans  would  have  merely  brushed  against 
the  British  rear  guards,  reported  the  main  body  to  be  still 
in  retreat,  and  continued  their  south-easterly  march  to  take 
the  French  Fifth  Army  in  flank. 

Events,  however,  having  fallen  out  as  they  did,  von  Sketch  5. 
Kluck  made  one  further  attempt  to  cut  off  the  British.  MaP  19- 
Meanwhile  on  his   left  von  Billow  was   pressing  forward 
against  the  French  Fifth  Army  and  had,  with  his  main 
body,  reached  the  line  of  the  Aisne  from  Pontavert  (14 
miles  north-west  of  Rheims)  to  Soissons,  the  head  of  his 
advance  being  on  the  Vesle.     On  his  front,  the  Fifth  Army 
had  fallen  back  to  the  line  Rheims — Fere  en  Tardenois. 

The  apprehensions  of  the  British  Commander-in-Chief 
that  on  the  night  of  the  lst/2nd  September  von  Kluck  was 
making  preparations  to  attack  him  turn  out  to  have  been 
fully  justified.1  From  a  captured  document,2  the  German 
general  had  learnt  that  "  the  British  Army  intended  to  go 
"  into  rest  billets  midday  on  the  1st  September  south  of  the 
"  line  Verberie — Cr6py  en  Valois — La  Fert6  Milon.  It, 
"  therefore,  seemed  still  possible  to  reach  it."  At  10.15  P.M. 
on  the  1st  September  he  issued  orders  for  the  First  Army 

1  See  p.  245  and  Kluck,  p.  81. 
2  Captured  on  a  cyclist.     Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  110. 


to  attack  the  British  next  day  :  "  the  ///.  and  IV.  Corps 
"  against  their  front,  crossing  the  line  Verberie — Crepy  at 
"  7  A.M.  ;  the  IX.  Corps,  starting  at  2  A.M.,  to  envelop  their 
"  right,  and  the  II.  with  IV.  Reserve  in  rear  of  it,  to  envelop 
"  their  left,  whilst  keeping  a  lookout  towards  Paris.  The 
"  //.  Cavalry  Corps  was  to  connect  the  IV.  and  17.  Corps. 

"  These  arrangements  were  in  vain,  the  British  Army 
"escaped  envelopment  by  a  timely  withdrawal,"  for  it 
slipped  away  in  the  night,  as  already  related.  The  only 
collision  that  took  place  was  between  the  German  //.  Corps 
and  French  cavalry  and  infantry  near  Senlis,  where  the 
latter  offered  a  stubborn  resistance.1  "  The  possibility  of 
"dealing  a  decisive  blow  against  the  British  could  no 
"longer  be  reckoned  on."  Von  Kluck,  therefore,  after 
another  half  day  had  been  wasted,  determined  to  wheel  his 
two  eastern  corps  south-east  against  the  flank  of  the  French 
Fifth  Army  in  order  to  assist  von  Billow.  The  rest  of  the 
First  Army  was  to  continue  its  advance  on  Paris.  Orders 
to  this  effect  were  issued  at  12.15  P.M.  and  1  P.M.  on 
the  2nd.  In  spite  of  von  Kluck's  zigzag  movements 
subsequent  to  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau,  his  Army  was  by 
this  time  a  clear  day's  march  ahead  of  the  Second,  and  at 
night  his  general  front  curved  forward  from  near  La  Ferte" 
Milon  to  Senlis. 


Map  4.  Whilst  in  Paris  on  the  1st  September,  Sir  John  French 
made  a  proposal  to  the  French  Minister  of  War  to  organize 
a  line  of  defence  on  the  Marne  and  stand  the  attack  of  the 
enemy.  This  was  rejected  on  the  2nd  by  General  Joffre, 
mainly,  apparently,  on  account  of  the  position  of  the  Fifth 
Army,  which  on  that  date  was  close  to  the  Marne  with  the 
enemy  near  at  hand.  He  added  :  "I  consider  that  the 
"  co-operation  of  the  British  Army  in  the  defence  of  Paris  is 
"  the  only  co-operation  which  can  give  useful  results."  Late 
in  the  evening,  his  Instruction  Generate  No.  4,  which,  forecast 
a  retreat  behind  the  Seine,  reached  Sir  John  French.2  The 
Field-Marshal  therefore  gave  orders  3  for  the  Marne  to  be 
crossed  on  the  3rd — as  did  General  Lanrezac  also  to  his 
Army — and  for  the  retreat  of  the  British  Army  to  be 
resumed  in  a  south-easterly  direction,  as  its  continuance  in 

1  Von  Kluck  says  the  British  Cavalry  Division  was  in  action  there, 
but  this  is  a  mistake. 

2  Appendices  24  and  25.  3  Appendix  26. 


a  south-westerly  direction  would  have  brought  it  inside  3  Sept. 
the  perimeter  of  the  entrenched  camp  of  Paris,  besides   1914- 
tending  to  increase  the  gap  between  its  right  and  the  left 
of  the  Fifth  Army.     Since  this  movement  was  in  the  nature 
of  a  flank  march  across  the  enemy's  front — although  it 
turned  out  that  his  columns  were  marching  practically 
parallel  to  the  British — it  was  necessary  to  make  arrange- 
ments to  keep  the  Germans  off  the  high  ground  on  the  north 
bank  of  the  Marne  during  its  execution. 

Early  in  the  morning  of  the  3rd  September,  therefore, 
the  5th  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  were  thrown  out  to  an 
east  and  west  line  north-eastwards  of  Meaux  ;  the  former 
(which  was  supported  by  a  battalion  and  a  battery)  cover- 
ing the  loop  of  the  Marne  from  St.  Aulde  westwards  to 
Lizy  sur  Ourcq,  and  the  latter  the  ground  thence  west- 
wards to  Barcy.  German  cavalry  patrols  appeared  on  the 
front  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  between  8  and  9  A.M.,  but 
did  not  approach  closely,  and  at  10.30  A.M.  the  brigade 
crossed  the  Marne  at  Germigny,  behind  the  centre  of  its 
sector,  and  then  moving  south-eastwards  behind  its  sister 
brigade,  fell  into  the  main  road  at  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre 
at  noon.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  was  not  troubled  until 
4  P.M.,  when  a  hostile  column,  including  four  batteries, 
appeared  at  May  en  Multien,  due  north  of  Lizy  on  the 
western  bank  of  the  Ourcq.  There  was  some  exchange  of 
rifle  and  artillery  fire  as  Brigadier-General  Chetwode 
slowly  withdrew  eastwards,  but  the  Germans  were  evidently 
content  to  see  him  go,  for  they  did  not  follow,  but  took  up 
billets  quietly  on  the  western  bank  of  the  Ourcq  from  Lizy 
northwards.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  then  crossed  the 
Marne  at  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  and  reached  its  billets  at 
7  P.M.,  having  had  no  more  than  five  casualties. 

Meanwhile,  having  started  between  3  and  4  A.M.,  the  1st  Sketch  4. 
Division  had  crossed  the  Marne  at  Trilport,  the  2nd  and  MaP  2(K 
3rd  at  Meaux,  the  5th  at  Isles  les  Villenoy,  the  4th  at 
Lagny  and  the  Cavalry  Division  at  Gournay.  They  blew 
up  all  the  bridges  behind  them  as  they  moved  south-east, 
and  by  evening  the  Army  was  distributed  along  a  line 
south  of  the  Marne  from  Jouarre  westward  to  Nogent,  I. 
Corps  patrols  being  again  in  touch  with  troops  of  the 
French  Fifth  Army  which  was  also  south  of  the  Marne. 
The  Sixth  Army,  north  of  the  Marne,  slightly  overlapped 
the  British  front  on  the  left. 

This  march  too  had  proved  a  trying  one  ;  it  was  long 
in  point  of  time  as  well  as  distance,  for  the  roads  were 


much  crowded  with  vehicles  of  refugees,  and  some  units 
were  as  much  as  eighteen  hours  on  the  road. 

Aerial  reconnaissance  on  this  day  established  the  fact 
that  von  Kluck  had  resumed  his  south-eastward  move- 
ment with  rapidity  and  vigour.  By  11  A.M.  the  head  of 
the  German  IX.  Corps  had  already  passed  the  Marne  and 
had  a  sharp  engagement  with  the  French  at  Chateau 
Thierry,  15  miles  north-east  of  the  British  right.  By 
evening  the  heads  of  the  ///.  and  IV.  Corps  had  also 
crossed  the  Marne  at  Che*zy  and  La  Ferte*  sous  Jouarre, 
respectively,  heading  for  the  gap  between  the  French  Fifth 
Army  and  the  British  Expeditionary  Force.  But  one  and 
all  arrived  too  late  at  the  river,  for  the  whole  of  the  French 
Fifth  Army  was  by  that  time  safely  across  the  Marne,  and 
its  left  had  fallen  back  after  the  fight  at  Chateau  Thierry, 
and  was  now  in  line  with  the  British  though  still  separated 
by  a  gap  of  about  ten  miles.  At  4.35  P.M.  the  British 
Commander-in-Chief,  certain  from  the  air  information  that 
von  Kluck  was  moving  from  west  to  east  and  intended  no 
immediate  action  against  him,  warned  his  corps  com- 
manders that,  unless  the  situation  changed,  the  troops 
would  remain  in  their  present  billets,  and  would  probably 
have  complete  rest  next  day.  The  time,  however,  was  not 
yet  ripe  for  General  Joffre  to  make  his  counter-stroke,  and 
he  even  proposed  to  retire  behind  the  Seine  if  it  should  be 
necessary  for  the  success  of  his  manoeuvre.  At  11.50  P.M., 
therefore,  Sir  John  French  issued  orders  *  for  the  remaining 
bridges  over  the  Marne  in  the  British  area  to  be  destroyed 
and  for  the  Army  to  continue  its  retreat  southward.  The 
intention  being  to  bring  the  whole  B.E.F.  behind  the 
Grand  Morin,  the  right  or  eastern  flank  had  to  be  swung 
back.  The  I.  Corps,  therefore,  was  to  move  first,  through 
Coulommiers,  with  the  3rd  and  5th  Cavalry  Brigades 
pushed  out  to  the  east,  in  order  to  protect  its  flank  and 
to  gain  contact  with  Conneau's  Cavalry  Corps,  which  was 
reported  to  be  at  Rebais,  7  miles  away.  The  II.  and  III. 
Corps  and  Cavalry  Division  were  to  stand  fast  until  the 
I.  Corps  had  reached  the  Grand  Morin,  and  then  fall  back 
in  line  with  it.  Every  precaution  was  to  be  taken  to 
conceal  the  billets  of  the  troops  from  aircraft.  The 
movements  of  the  British  Army  during  the  past  few  days 
had  already  misled  the  enemy  once  and,  if  its  whereabouts 
could  now  be  hidden,  might  mislead  him  again.2 

1  Appendix  27. 

*  In  this,  according  to  von  Kluck,  the  II.  and  III.  Corps  were  success- 
ful ;  the  march  and  bivouacs  of  the  I.  Corps  only  were  observed. 



Accordingly,  on  the  4th,  soon  after  daybreak,  the  5th  4  Sept. 
Cavalry  Brigade,  with  the  3rd  in  support,  advanced  east-  1914- 
ward  to  Doue  midway  between  the  two  Morins,  and  sent  Map  4. 
patrols  forward  along  both  banks  of  the  Petit  Morin.  At 
the  same  time  it  dispatched  the  Scots  Greys  to  the  east 
towards  Rebais  to  meet  the  French  cavalry  there.  At 
8  A.M.  the  patrols  reported  a  hostile  column  of  all  arms 
moving  south-east  along  the  main  road  north  of  the  Petit 
Morin  from  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  to  Montmirail,  but 
there  were  evidently  parties  of  the  enemy  south  of  the 
valley,  for  a  troop  of  the  Greys  found  Germans  at  Rebais, 
and  had  such  sharp  fighting  that  only  five  men  of  it 
escaped.  At  11.45  A.M.  a  column  of  cavalry  with  guns 
and  three  battalions  of  infantry — evidently  a  flank  guard — 
were  seen  moving  south-east  on  the  heights  between  the 
Montmirail  road  and  the  Petit  Morin,  from  Boitron  upon 
Sablonnieres ;  some  of  them  crossing  the  stream,  attacked 
an  advanced  party  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  about  a 
mile  east  of  Doue,  but  without  success.  The  enemy  seems 
then  to  have  decided  that  it  was  time  to  thrust  back  this 
prying  English  cavalry,  and  manoeuvred  to  turn  Brigadier- 
General  Chetwode's  position  from  the  south  ;  but  when 
he  fell  back  under  cover  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  and 
the  Germans  occupied  his  ground  about  Doue,  the  latter 
were  at  once  engaged  by  E  Battery,  which  disabled  one  of 
the  German  guns  and  did  considerable  damage  among  the 
gun  teams.  At  6  P.M.  Brigadier-General  Gough  in  turn 
withdrew  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  protected  by  the  fire 
of  the  113th  and  114th  Batteries,  and  by  the  2nd  Infantry 
Brigade,  which  was  in  position  about  Aulnoy.  He  then 
crossed  the  Petit  Morin  at  Coulommiers,  and  made  for 
Chailly,  a  little  to  the  south-east. 

Meanwhile,  the  I.  Corps  had  marched  southward  upon 
Coulommiers,   not  wholly  without   expectation   of  inter- 
ference, for  the  bridge  at  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  from  lack 
of  explosives  had  not  been  thoroughly  destroyed.     About 
8  A.M.  indeed  a  German  battalion  crossed  the  river  by  this  Sketch  4. 
bridge,1  but  it  did  not  immediately  press  on,  and  the  1st  MaP  21- 
Division,    pursuing    its    march    methodically,    halted    at 
Aulnoy    and    Coulommiers    in    the    afternoon.     The    2nd 

1  The  German  IV.  Corps  and  II.  Cavalry  Corps  crossed  at  La  Fert6 
sous  Jouarre. 


Division,  falling  back  by  brigades  in  succession,  a  little 
further  to  the  west,  upon  Mouroux  and  Giremoutiers,  saw 
nothing  but  a  few  cavalry  patrols.  The  II.  and  III.  Corps 
and  Cavalry  Division  actually  enjoyed  a  day  of  rest  on 
the  4th  until  after  dark,  when  they  too  moved  off  south 
through  the  night,  as  will  be  related.  For  the  moment 
the  Army  was  concentrated  on  the  Grand  Morin. 

The  information  obtained  by  the  Flying  Corps  on  this 
day  was  particularly  full  and  complete,  giving  the  bivouacs 
of  all  the  corps  of  the  German  First  Army  and  the  lines  of 
march  of  their  columns  in  a  south-easterly  direction  across 
the  front  of  the  B.E.F.  It  confirmed  the  observations  of  the 
cavalry  to  the  effect  that  the  main  portion  of  von  Kluck's 
Army  having  crossed  the  Marne,  its  left  on  Chateau  Thierry 
and  its  right  on  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre,  was  pressing  on 
through  Montmirail  —  La  Ferte  Gaucher  against  the  left 
of  the  French  Fifth  Army  (the  XVIII.  Corps,  with  Vala- 
bregue's  Group  of  Reserve  divisions  in  echelon  behind  it, 
and  Conneau's  Cavalry  Corps),  and  against  the  gap  between 
it  and  the  B.E.F.  General  Franchet  d'Esperey,  who  had 
taken  over  command  of  the  Fifth  Army  from  General 
Lanrezac x  the  previous  day,  was  continuing  the  with- 
drawal, swinging  his  left  back  to  meet  the  threat  against  it. 

It  may  be  noted  that  on  this  day  the  French  Ninth 
Army,  under  General  Foch,  came  into  existence  between 
the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies.  It  was  organized  merely 
for  convenience  of  command  from  the  left  of  the  Fourth 
Army,  and  its  formation  did  not,  therefore,  affect  the 
general  situation.2 

During  the  4th  September,  General  Gallieni,  the  recently 
appointed  Military  Governor  of  Paris,  under  whose  direct 
orders  the  French  Sixth  Army  had  been  acting  since  the 
31st  August  "  in  the  interests  of  the  defence  of  Paris,"  came 
with  General  Maunoury  to  British  headquarters  at  Melun.3 
Sir  John  French  was  absent  visiting  his  troops,  but  to 
his  Chief  of  the  Staff  General  Gallieni  pointed  out  that 

1  For  an  account  of  his  sudden  removal,  see  his  book,  "•  Le  Plan  de 
Campagne  franyais  et  le  premier  mois  de  la  Guerre,"  p.  276  et  seq. 

2  The  French  Ninth  Army  came  officially  into  existence  as  an  inde- 
pendent command  at  11  P.M.  on  the  4th  September.     It  had  actually  been 
formed  on  the  29th  August  as  a  "  Detachement  d'Armee."     It  consisted 
of  the  IX.  and  XI.  Corps,  52nd  and  60th  Reserve  Divisions  and  9th  Cavalry 
Division  from  the  left  of  the  Fourth  Army,  and  the  42nd  Division  from  the 
Third  Army.     Its  formation  merely  reduced  the  size  of  the  Fourth  Army, 
and  put  the  Fourth  and  Ninth  Armies  where  the  Fourth  had  been. 

8  See  "  Memoires  du  General  Gallieni.     Defense  de  Paris,"  p.  121,  for 
an  account  of  this  visit. 


advantage  ought  to  be  taken  at  once  of  the  opportunity  the  4  Sept. 
German  First  Army  had  given  by  offering  its  right  flank.  1914« 
He  added  that  he  had  ordered  the  Army  of  Paris,  as  he 
called  his  combined  forces  of  the  Sixth  Army  and  Paris 
garrison,  to  move  eastwards  that  afternoon.  He  stated 
that  he  proposed,  with  the  concurrence  of  General  Joffre, 
whom  he  had  informed,  to  attack  the  German  IV.  Reserve 
Corps,  which  was  covering  the  movement  of  the  First  Army. 
This  formation  had  been  reported  that  morning  marching 
in  two  columns  towards  Trilport  and  Lizy  sur  Ourcq. 
Galli6ni  suggested  that  the  British  Army  should  cease  to 
retreat,  and  take  the  offensive  next  day  in  co-operation 
with  his  forces.  In  the  absence  of  the  British  Commander- 
in-Chief,  nothing  could  be  decided,  and,  after  waiting  three 
hours  until  5  P.M.,  General  Gallieni  left.  When  he  reached 
Paris,  he  found  a  telegram  from  General  Joffre  1  stating 
that  "  he  considered  it  more  advantageous  to  bring  the 
"  Sixth  Army  to  the  left  [south]  bank  of  the  Marne,  to  the 
"  south  of  Lagny  "  (where  the  British  left  then  was),  and 
directing  him  "  to  come  to  an  understanding  with  the  Field- 
Marshal  for  the  execution  of  the  movement." 

General  Joffre  had  also  written  to  Sir  John  French  on 
this  day  confirming  his  intention  to  adhere  to  the  plan  of 
retirement  already  communicated  to  him.2  He  added  : — 

"  In  case  the  German  Armies  should  continue  the 
"  movement  south-south-east,  thus  moving  away  from  the 
"  Seine  and  Paris,  perhaps  you  will  consider,  as  I  do,  that 
"  your  action  will  be  most  effective  on  the  right  bank  of 
44  that  river  between  Marne  and  Seine. 

"  Your  left  resting  on  the  Marne,  supported  by  the 
"  entrenched  camp  of  Paris,  will  be  covered  by  the  mobile 
"  garrison  of  the  capital,  which  will  attack  eastwards  on 
"  the  left  bank  3  of  the  Marne." 

This  letter  left  no  doubt  that  the  Generalissimo  wished 
the  B.E.F.  to  be  withdrawn  further  to  make  room  for  the 
Army  of  Paris  south  of  the  Marne,4  and  in  view  of  the  gap 
which  existed  between  the  B.E.F.  and  the  Fifth  Army, 
and  "  because  the  Germans  were  exercising  some  pressure 
"  on  Haig  on  this  night  [4th  Sept.]," 5  Sir  John  French 
decided  to  retire  "  a  few  miles  further  south." 

1  "  Memoires  du  General  Gallieni,"  p.  222. 

2  See  Appendix  28  for  the  original  French. 

3  As  a  result  of  telephone  communications  between  General  Joffre  and 
Gallieni  on  the  4th  September  this  was  changed  to  the  right  bank. 

*  See  Sir  John  French's  letter  to  Earl  Kitchener.     Appendix  29. 
5  Lord  French's  "  1914,"  p.  109. 
VOL.  I  S 


At  6.35  P.M.,  therefore,  orders  l  were  issued  from  British 
G.H.Q.  at  Melun,  for  the  Army  to  move  south-west  on  the 
5th,  pivoting  on  its  left,  so  that  its  rear  guards  would  reach, 
roughly  a  line  drawn  east  and  west  through  Tournan.  The 
times  of  starting  were  left  to  the  corps  commanders.  The 
Cavalry  Division  was  further  warned  to  be  ready  to  move 
from  the  western  to  the  eastern  flank  of  the  Army  early 
on  the  6th. 

A  message  informing  him  of  the  movements  ordered 
was  sent  to  General  Gallieni  through  the  French  Mission  at 
British  headquarters. 


Map  4.  Accordingly  before  dawn  on  the  5th,  the  I.  Corps  was 
again  on  the  march  southwards  with  the  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigade  as  rear  guard  and  the  5th  as  eastern  flank  guard. 
The  latter  had  a  skirmish  at  Chailly  early  in  the  morning, 
but  otherwise  the  march  was  uneventful,  and  was  indeed 
compared  by  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  to  a  march  in  peace 
time.  The  fighting  troops  of  the  III.  Corps  started  at 
4  A.M.,  but  the  II.  Corps  moved  off  several  hours  earlier, 
at  10  P.M.,  in  order  to  avoid  the  heat  of  the  day.  Both 
corps  were  unmolested.  During  the  5th,  definite  orders 
for  the  Cavalry  Division  to  move  to  the  right  flank  were 
issued,  and  in  the  course  of  the  afternoon  it  started  east- 
wards across  the  rear  of  the  Army. 

Sketch  4.  Thus  by  nightfall,  or  a  little  later,  the  British  force  had 
Map  22.  reached  its  halting-places  south-south-east  of  Paris,  and 
faced  somewhat  east  of  north :  the  I.  Corps  in  and  west 
of  Rozoy,  the  Cavalry  Division  to  its  right  rear  in  Mormant 
and  the  villages  north  of  it,  the  II.  Corps  on  the  left  of  the 
I.,  in  and  east  of  Tournan,  and  the  III.  Corps  on  the  left 
of  the  II.,  from  Ozoir  la  Ferriere  southwards  to  Brie  Comte 
Robert,  touching  the  defences  of  Paris. 

Meanwhile,  during  the  5th  September,  north-east  of  the 
capital,  General  Maunoury's  Sixth  Army  had  by  General 
Gallieni' s  orders  advanced  north  of  the  Marrie  towards 
the  Ourcq,  and  in  the  afternoon  had  come  into  contact  with 
the  German  IV.  Reserve  Corps  between  Meaux  and  St. 
Soupplets.  This  Army  was  steadily  increasing  in  numbers 
as  divisions  reached  it  from  the  east.2  On  the  right  of  the 

1  Appendix  30. 

2  It  consisted  on  the  5th  September  of  the  VII.  Corps,  45th  Division, 
55th  and  56th  Reserve  Divisions,  the  Moroccan  Brigade,  and  Gillet's 


British,  and  slightly  to  the  south  of  them,  General  Conneau's  5  Sept. 
Cavalry  Corps  (4th,  8th  and  10th  Cavalry  Divisions)  was   1914- 
near  Provins,  on  the  extreme  left  of  the  Fifth  Army,  which 
had  also  retired  during  the  5th,  and  was  now  extended 
north-eastwards  from  Provins  to  Sezanne.     Thus  the  gap 
in  the  Allied  line  on  this  side  was  reduced  to  less  than 
fourteen   miles,    with   four   French   and    British   cavalry 
divisions  at  hand  to  fill  it. 

Opposite  the  French  Fifth  Army  and  the  right  of  the  Sketch  5. 
B.E.F.,  von  Kluck's  Army  had  continued  its  south-eastward  MaP  22- 
movement.  As  aeroplane  reconnaissance  clearly  showed, 
the  whole  of  it  (except  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  and  4th 
Cavalry  Division,  which  were  observing  Paris)  had  passed 
the  lines  of  the  Ourcq  and  the  Marne  and  had  wheeled  to 
the  south,  its  front  stretching  along  the  line  of  the  Grand 
Morin,  which  its  advanced  troops  had  crossed,  from 
Esternay  (near  Sezanne)  to  Crecy  (south  of  Meaux).  On 
von  Kluck's  left,  the  Second  Army  was  a  day's  march 
behind  him,  its  right  slightly  overlapped  by  the  IX.  Corps, 
so  that  for  a  time  there  was  an  impression  that  he  had  been 
reinforced.  The  moment  for  which  General  Joffre  had 
waited  was  come  at  last.  Von  Kluck,  in  his  headlong  rush 
eastwards,  had,  it  appeared,  ignored  not  only  the  fortress 
of  Paris,  but  the  Sixth  Army  which,  with  the  British,  was 
now  in  position,  as  a  glance  at  the  map  will  show,  to  fall  in 
strength  upon  his  right  flank  and  rear. 

Similarly,  further  east,  parts  of  the  German  Fifth  Army 
and  the  Fourth  Army  had  swept  past  the  western  side  of 
Verdun,  with  which  fortress  General  Sarrail's  Third  Army, 
facing  almost  due  west,  was  still  in  touch.  Thus,  whilst 
the  German  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies  were  held  up  by  the 
eastern  fortresses,  the  Fifth,  Fourth,  Third,  Second  and 
First  Armies  had  penetrated  into  a  vast  bag  or  "  pocket " 
between  the  fortresses  of  Verdun  and  Paris,  the  sides  of 
which  were  held  by  unbeaten  troops,  ready  to  turn  on  the 
enemy  directly  the  command  should  come  to  do  so.  t  Credit 
has  been  claimed  for  General  Gallieni  that  he  first  dis- 
covered the  eastward  march  of  von  Kluck  and  brought  its 
significance  to  the  notice  of  General  Joffre,  and  that  he 

Cavalry  Brigade — some  70,000  men  with  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  attached. 
Behind  it  were  a  group  of  Territorial  brigades  under  General  Mercier- 
Milon,  Ebener's  Group  of  Reserve  divisions  (61st  and  62nd),  and  the 
actual  garrison  of  Paris,  four  divisions  and  a  brigade  of  Territorial  troops, 
with  a  brigade  of  Fusiliers  Marins  sent  for  police  duties.  The  IV.  Corps 
was  just  arriving,  so  General  Gallieni  reckoned  he  had  about  150,000  men 
available  for  action  as  the  Army  of  Paris. 


immediately  took  appropriate  action  with  the  troops  under 
his  command,  and  prevailed  upon  the  Commander-in- 
Chief  to  change  his  plan  for  retiring  behind  the  Seine.  Be 
this  as  it  may,  the  decision  to  resume  the  offensive  rested 
with  General  Joffre. 

The  retreat  of  the  B.E.F.  had  continued,  with  only  one 
halt,  for  thirteen  days  over  a  distance,  as  the  crow  flies,  of 
one  hundred  and  thirty-six  miles,  and  as  the  men  marched,  at 
least  two  hundred  miles,  and  that  after  two  days'  strenuous 
marching  in  advance  to  the  Mons  Canal.  The  mere  state- 
ment of  the  distance  gives  no  measure  of  the  demands  made 
upon  the  physical  and  moral  endurance  of  the  men,  and 
but  little  idea  of  the  stoutness  with  which  they  had  re- 
sponded to  these  demands.  The  misery  that  all  ranks 
suffered  is  well  summed  up  in  the  phrase  of  an  officer :  "I 
"  would  never  have  believed  that  men  could  be  so  tired  and 
"  so  hungry  and  yet  live."  An  artillery  officer  whose  brigade 
marched  and  fought  throughout  the  retreat  with  the  same 
infantry  brigade  has  noted  in  his  diary  that,  on  the  average, 
mounted  men  had  three  hours',  and  infantry  four  hours' 
rest  per  day.  The  late  General  Sir  Stanley  Maude,  who 
was  on  the  III.  Corps  Staff,  has  put  it  on  record  that  he 
did  not  average  three  hours'  sleep  out  of  the  twenty-four ; * 
officers  of  the  lower  staffs  had  less.  But  all  these  trials 
were  now  behind  them :  the  Retreat  from  Mons  was  over. 

There  have  been  three  other  notable  retreats  in  the 
history  of  the  British  Army.  All  three,  that  of  Sir 
John  Moore  to  Corunna  in  the  winter  of  1808-9,  of  Sir 
Arthur  Wellesley  after  the  battle  of  Talavera  in  1809, 
and  again  from  Burgos  to  Ciudad  Rodrigo  in  1812,  were 
marred  by  serious  lack  of  discipline,  though  the  first  was 
redeemed  by  its  results  and  the  success  of  the  final  action  at 
Corunna,  and  the  last  was  reckoned  by  critics  to  be  the 
greatest  of  Wellington's  achievements.  The  Retreat  from 
Mons,  on  the  other  hand,  was  in  every  way  honourable  to 
the  Army.  The  troops  suffered  under  every  disadvantage. 
The  number  of  reservists  in  the  ranks  was  on  an  average 
over  one-half  of  the  full  strength,  and  the  units  were  owing 
to  the  force  of  circumstances  hurried  away  to  the  area  of  con- 
centration before  all  ranks  could  resume  acquaintance  with 
their  officers  and  comrades,  and  re-learn  their  business  as 
soldiers.  Arrived  there,  they  were  hastened  forward  by 
forced  marches  to  the  battle,  confronted  with  greatly 
superior  numbers  of  the  most  renowned  army  in  Europe, 
1  CallwelPs  "  Sir  Stanley  Maude,"  p,  120. 


and  condemned  at  the  very  outset  to  undergo  the  severest  5  Sept. 
ordeal  which  can  be  imposed  upon  an  army.     They  were   1914- 
short  of  food  and  sleep  when  they  began  their  retreat,  they 
continued  it,  always  short  of  food  and  sleep,  for  thirteen 
days,  as  has  been  told  ;   and  at  the  end  they  were  still  an 
army,    and   a   formidable   army.     They   were   never   de- 
moralized, for  they  rightly  judged  that  they  had  never 
been  beaten.1 

The  B.E.F.,  forming  as  it  did  only  a  very  small  portion 
of  the  line  of  the  French  Armies  commanded  by  General 
Joffre,  had  no  independent  strategical  role  in  the  opening 
phases  of  the  war.  When  the  Germans  turned  the  Allied 
left  by  an  unexpectedly  wide  movement  through  Belgium, 
the  Generalissimo  decided  that  his  only  chance  of  stopping 
them  was  "  by  abandoning  ground  and  mounting  a  new 
operation " ; 2  to  this  Sir  John  French  had  naturally  to 
conform.  The  operation,  which  involved  the  assembly  of  a 
new  Army  in  the  west  to  outflank  the  enemy,  required  time 
to  prepare.  General  Joffre  at  first  hoped,  whilst  his  First 
and  Second  Armies  held  Lorraine,  to  be  able  to  stand  on  Maps  2, 
the  line  Verdun — river  Aisne  (Vouziers — Berry  au  Bac) —  &  4- 
Craonne — Laon — La  Fere — Ham,  and  thence  along  the 
Somme.  This  line  he  intended  to  entrench.3  The  Germans, 
however,  pressed  on  too  closely  to  permit  of  it,  and 
widened  their  turning  movement.  There  was  no  alternative 
to  fighting  at  a  strategical  and  tactical  disadvantage  but 
a  further  general  retirement  —  "hanging  on  as  long  as 
possible,  avoiding  any  decisive  action,"  but  giving  the 
enemy  severe  lessons  as  opportunities  occurred.4 

Instead  of  being  beaten  piecemeal  by  superior  forces 
as  in  1870,  the  French,  after  the  initial  failure  of  their 
offensive,  withdrew  in  good  time.  Such  fights  as  took 
place,  and  there  were  many  all  along  the  front  besides 
Guise,5  resulted  not  in  a  Woerth  or  a  Spicheren,  but 
in  the  Allies  slipping  away  after  inflicting  severe  losses  on 
the  enemy.6  In  these  operations,  the  B.E.F.,  at  Mons  and 
Le  Cateau  and  in  smaller  actions,  was  eminently  successful : 

1  A  table  of  the  length  of  the  daily  marches  will  be  found  in  Appendix  31 . 

2  Rapport  du  General  Joffre  au  Ministre  de  la  Guerre,  25th  Aug.  1914. 

3  Directive  of  25th  August,  22  hours. 

4  General  Joffre's  letter  to  G.H.Q.  of  30th  August. 

5  Beaufort,  La  Marfee,  Murtin,  Tremblois,  Chilly,  Launais,  besides  the 
battles  of  Signy  1'Abbaye  and  Rethel. 

6  General  Graf  Stiirgkh,  head  of  the  Austrian   Mission  at  German 
G.H.Q. ,  gives  the  heavy  losses  suffered  by  the  Germans  in  the  preliminary 
engagements  as  one  of  the  principal  reasons  for  the  defeat  at  the  Marne 
("  Im  Deutschen  Grossen  Hauptquartier,"  p.  88). 


it  had  no  difficulty  in  more  than  holding  its  own  whenever 
contact  occurred,  hitting  hard  and  then  marching  off  un- 
molested. Only  those  who  have  commanded  British 
infantry  can  have  any  conception  of  what  it  can  accomplish. 

By  some  it  has  been  thought  that  the  B.E.F.  could 
have  done  more ;  in  particular  it  might  have  assisted  the 
French  at  Guise.  It  has,  however,  been  shown  in  the 
narrative1  that  one  of  the  reasons  that  General  Joffre 
ordered  General  Lanrezac  to  take  the  offensive  was  to 
relieve  the  pressure  on  the  British,  and  he  did  not  call  on 
Sir  John  French  to  assist.  The  British  Commander-in- 
Chief,  in  his  dangerous  position  on  the  outer  flank  of  the 
Allied  Armies  for  many  days,  had  not  only  to  bear  in  mind 
General  Joffre's  general  instructions  to  avoid  decisive 
action  and  the  necessity  of  husbanding  his  force  for  the 
coming  battle  when  the  Armies  should  turn,  but  to  recall 
that  he  commanded  nearly  all  the  available  trained  staff 
officers,  officers  and  men  of  the  British  Empire,  the 
nucleus  on  which  the  New  Armies  were  to  be  trained  and 
initiated  in  war ;  above  all,  he  had  to  remember  the  in- 
structions of  the  Government,  that  "  the  greatest  care  must 
be  exercised  towards  a  minimum  of  losses  and  wastage." 

On  the  5th  September  there  were  some  twenty  thousand 
men  absent  of  the  original  numbers  of  the  B.E.F. ;  but, 
as  in  all  great  retreats,  a  large  proportion  of  these  rejoined 
later ;  the  official  returns  show  a  figure  of  a  little  over 
fifteen  thousand  killed,  wounded  and  missing.  The  loss 
of  war  material  is  difficult  to  set  down  exactly.  Some 
transport  was  abandoned  as  is  inevitable  at  such  times  ; 
many  of  the  valises  and  great-coats  were  discarded  or  burnt, 
and  a  very  large  proportion  of  the  entrenching  tools  left 
behind.  As  to  guns,  forty-two  fell  into  the  enemy's  hands 
as  the  result  of  active  combat,  and  two  or  three  more, 
through  one  mishap  or  another,  were  left  behind.  Such 
a  casualty  list  can,  in  the  circumstances,  be  only  considered 
as  astonishingly  light.  Its  seriousness  lay  in  the  fact  that, 
whether  in  guns  or  men,  the  loss  had  fallen  almost  wholly 
upon  the  left  wing :  the  II.  and  III.  Corps,  and  above  all 
upon  the  II.  Corps. 


Sketch  i.        It  was  impossible  to  expect  that  the  deficiencies  in  men 
Map  2.      an(j  material  could  be  immediately  made  good.     Practi- 
cally all  units  received  their  first  reinforcements — the  "  ten 

1  See  pp.  218  and  227. 


per  cent  reinforcements  " — on  the  4th  and  5th  September,  1-5  Sept. 
and  these,  added  to  the  replacement  of  the  Ministers  in  the  1914)- 
1st  (Guards)  Brigade  by  the  Cameron  Highlanders  (hitherto 
Army  Troops),  brought  the  I.  Corps  more  or  less  up  to 
strength.  But  the  far  graver  losses  of  the  II.  Corps, 
especially  in  guns  and  vehicles,  could  not  be  so  quickly 
repaired.  The  rapid  advance  of  the  Germans  to  the 
west  had  made  the  bases  at  Boulogne  and  Havre 
unsafe,  and  had  actually  dispossessed  the  British  of 
their  advanced  base  at  Amiens.  The  advisability  of  a 
change  of  base  was  foreseen  by  the  Q.M.G.,  Major-General 
Sir  William  Robertson,  as  early  as  the  24th  August, 
and  from  that  date  all  further  movement  of  men  or 
stores  to  Havre  or  Boulogne  was  stopped.  By  the  27th, 
Boulogne  had  been  cleared  of  stores  and  closed  as  a  port 
of  disembarkation;  and  on  the  29th  St.  Nazaire  on  the 
Loire  was  selected  as  the  new  base.1  At  that  time  there 
were  sixty  thousand  tons  of  stores  at  Havre ;  also  fifteen 
thousand  men  and  fifteen  hundred  horses,  besides  eight 
hundred  tons  of  hay  at  Rouen,  all  awaiting  transfer  to  St. 
Nazaire.  By  the  30th  of  August  the  Inspector-General  of 
Communications,  Major-General  Robb,  had  telegraphed  his 
requirements  in  tonnage  to  Southampton  ;  and  on  the  1st 
September  the  transports  for  the  troops  were  ordered  to 
Havre.  By  the  3rd  September  all  stores  had  been  cleared 
from  Rouen,  and  all  troops  from  Havre  ;  and  by  the  5th 
every  pound  of  stores  had  been  removed  from  Havre.  In 
fact,  in  these  four  days  twenty  thousand  officers  and  men, 
seven  thousand  horses  and  sixty  thousand  tons  of  stores  had 
been  shipped  from  Havre  to  St.  Nazaire,  a  very  considerable 
feat  of  organization. 

A  mere  comparison  of  dates,  however,  will  show  that, 
despite  this  great  effort,  some  days  were  bound  to  elapse 
before  the  gigantic  mass  of  stores  could  be  landed,  the  new 
base  thoroughly  organized,  and  all  arrangements  working 
smoothly  for  the  despatch  of  what  was  needed  to  the  front 
by  a  longer  line  of  communication.  The  arrival  of  the  first 
reinforcements  on  the  4th  and  5th  September  was  only 
secured  by  extraordinary  exertions  ;  and  it  was  obvious 
that  the  II.  Corps  must  enter  upon  the  new  operations 
with  its  ranks  still  much  depleted,  and  lacking  one-third 
of  its  divisional  artillery. 

1  The  L.  of  C.  ran  from  St.  Nazaire  by  two  railway  routes — one  via 
Saumur  and  the  other  by  Le  Mans — to  Villeneuve  St.  Georges,  just  south- 
east of  Paris,  whence  there  was  one  route  to  a  varying  railhead. 



Sketch  5.  On  the  28th  August,  it  will  be  recalled,1  the  German 
'  SuPreme  Command  (O.H.L.)  had  ordered  the  Second  Army 
to  march  on  Paris,  and  the  First  Army  on  the  lower  Seine, 
on  the  supposition  that  at  least  the  French  centre  and  left 
were  in  full  retreat  on  the  capital.2  After  the  battle  of 
Guise  (29th-30th  August)  both  von  Kluck  and  von  Billow 
had  departed  from  these  orders  :  the  former  turned  south- 
eastwards  to  help  von  Bulow  who,  instead  of  marching  on 
Paris,  was  preparing  to  follow  the  French  Fifth  Army  due 

Approval  of  this  change  had  been  given  by  O.H.L. 
late  on  the  30th,  but  it  was  not  until  the  night  of  the 
2nd/3rd  September  that  further  orders,  embodying  a  new 
plan,  evidently  founded  on  the  optimistic  reports  received 
from  the  Armies,  were  issued  by  O.H.L.  in  the  form  of  a 
message  to  the  First  and  Second  Armies.  This  ran  :  — 

"The  French  are  to  be  forced  away  from  Paris  in  a  south- 
"  easterly  direction. 

"  The  First  Army  will  follow  in  echelon  behind  the  Second 
"  Army,  and  will  be  responsible  henceforward  for  the  flank 
"  protection  of  the  force. 

"  The  appearance  of  some  of  our  cavalry  before  Paris,  as 
"  well  as  the  destruction  of  all  roads  leading  to  Paris  is  desired." 

These  orders  placed  von  Kluck  in  an  unpleasant 
dilemma  ;  3  the  Second  Army  was  "  a  heavy  day's  march 
behind  the  mass  of  the  First  Army"  To  march  back  a 
day  to  get  into  the  echelon  position  ordered  would  have 
made  it  impossible  to  drive  the  French  south-eastwards, 
an  operation  which  the  First  Army  had  initiated  and  alone 
was  at  the  moment  in  a  position  to  attempt.  For  it  to 
mark  time  for  two  days  was  even  further  out  of  the  question  ; 
the  success  that  O.H.L.  hoped  for  could  not  be  achieved 
if  it  stood  still.  Von  Kluck,  therefore,  considered  that  he 
could  best  carry  out  the  spirit  of  the  orders  if  he  detailed 

1  See  p.  222. 

2  It  may  however  have  been  in  pursuance  of  von  Schlieffen's  plan  drawn 
up  in  1905  .     According  to  this,  part  of  the  Second  Army  reinforced  by  Ersatz 
divisions  was  to  invest  Paris,  whilst  the  First  Army  passing  round  the 
capital  was  then  to  move  east  and  envelop  the  French  Armies  or  drive 
them  towards  Switzerland.    Sufficient  forces  for  this  scheme  were  however 
no  longer  available. 

3  See  Kluck,  p.  85  el  seq. 


the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  and  a  cavalry  division  for  the  flank  3-4  Sept. 
protection  against  Paris,  and  moved  forward  with  the  rest     1914- 
of  his  Army  across  the  Marne  to  drive  the  French  south- 
eastwards.     He  kept  a  second  corps,  the  //.,  in  echelon 
behind  his  right  as  further  cover  against  Paris,  and  in- 
formed O.H.L.  that  "  the  proposed  driving  of  the  enemy 
"  from  Paris  in  a  south-easterly  direction  could  only  be 
"  carried  out  by  the  advance  of  the  First  Army."     On  the 
evening  of  the  3rd  he  issued  orders  to  his  corps  in  accord- 
ance with  his  own  views.     They  began  : — 

"  The  First  Army  will  continue  its  advance  over  the  Marne 
"  to-morrow  in  order  to  drive  the  French  south-eastwards. 

"  If  any  British  are  met  with,  they  are  to  be  driven  back." 1 

The  importance  attached  to  the  flank  guard  is  indicated 
by  the  fact  that  it  was  formed  only  of  a  Reserve  corps, 
short  of  a  brigade  left  behind  at  Brussels,  and  the  4th 
Cavalry  Division,  which  had  been  cut  up  at  Nery. 

On  the  4th  September,  therefore,  von  Kluck  continued 
his  march  south-south-east  between  the  Marne  and  the  Petit 
Morin,  whilst  von  Biilow  crossed  the  Marne  and  advanced  a 
short  way  south  of  it  "  without  important  fighting."  At 
7.30  P.M.  von  Kluck,  still  under  the  impression  that  his 
principal  task  was  to  drive  the  Allies  south-eastwards  from 
Paris,  and  as  usual  quite  in  the  dark  as  to  the  whereabouts 
of  the  B.E.F.,  issued  the  following  orders  for  next  day  : — 

"  The  First  Army  will  continue  its  advance  against  the  Seine 
"  with  protection  towards  Paris.  Should  the  British  be  caught 
"  up  anywhere  they  will  be  attacked." 

His  corps  were  directed  to  cross  the  Grand  Morin,  and 
reach  :  the  IX.  Esternay,  the  ///.  Sancy  ;  the  IV.  Choisy  : 
even  the  //.  Corps  was  to  cross  the  Marne  and  reach  the 
Grand  Morin  below  Coulommiers  ;  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps 
with  the  4th  Cavalry  Division  was  to  come  further  south- 
wards, to  the  north  of  Meaux,  and  the  //.  Cavalry  Corps 

go  J 

consequence  of  the  Third  Army  being  somewhat  in 
rear  of  its  place  in  the  line  south  and  south-east  of  Rheims, 
von  Biilow  ordered  for  the  5th  only  a  short  march  to 
Montmirail — Vertus  for  the  Second  Army. 

During  the  afternoon  of  the  4th  September,  the  true 
situation — that  the  Allies  were  by  no  means  beaten  and 
that  the  French  were  preparing  to  envelop  the  German 

1  Kluck,  p.  91.  2  Kluck,  pp.  93,  94. 


right  instead  of  submitting  to  being  enveloped — dawned 
on  O.H.L. 

How  von  Moltke  felt  is  recorded  by  Herr  Helfferich, 
the  Foreign  Secretary.  On  the  evening  of  the  4th  Sep- 
tember, he  says  : — 

"  I  found  Generaloberst  von  Moltke  by  no  means  in 
"  a  cheerful  mood  inspired  by  victory,  he  was  serious 
"  and  depressed.  He  confirmed  that  our  advanced  troops 
"  were  only  thirty  miles  from  Paris  [the  Kaiser  had  just 
"  announced  this  triumphantly  to  Helfferich],  '  but,'  he 
"  added,  '  we've  hardly  a  horse  in  the  army  that  can  go 
out  of  a  walk.'  After  a  short  pause,  he  continued  : 
We  must  not  deceive  ourselves.  We  have  had  suc- 
cesses, but  we  have  not  yet  had  victory.  Victory 
means  annihilation  of  the  enemy's  power  of  resistance. 
When  armies  of  millions  of  men  are  opposed,  the 
victor  has  prisoners.  Where  are  ours  ?  There  were 
some  20,000  taken  in  the  Lorraine  fighting,  another 
10,000  here  and  perhaps  another  10,000  there.  Besides, 
the  relatively  small  number  of  captured  guns  shows 
me  that  the  French  have  withdrawn  in  good  order  and 
according  to  plan.  The  hardest  work  is  still  to  be 
"  '  done.'  "  * 

At  6.45  P.M.  the  Supreme  Command  issued  the  following 
Memorandum  and  orders  to  all  Armies.  They  appear  of 
sufficient  importance  to  quote  in  extenso.2  The  substance 
was  sent  out  by  wireless,  and  reached  the  First  and  Second 
Armies  about  6  A.M.  on  the  5th  ;  the  originals  were  carried 
by  officers  in  motor  cars,  who  did  not  arrive  until 
"  evening." 

"  4tth  September — 7.45  p.m.  [German  time] 

"  To  all  Armies 

"  The  enemy  has  evaded  the  enveloping  attack  of  the 
'  First  and  Second  Armies,  and  a  part  of  his  forces  has  joined 
'  up  with  those  about  Paris.  From  reports  and  other  in- 
'  formation,  it  appears  that  the  enemy  is  moving  troops 
4  westwards  from  the  front  Toul — Belfort,  and  is  also  taking 
'  them  from  the  front  of  the  Third,  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies. 
1  The  attempt  to  force  the  whole  French  Army  back  in  a 
'  south-easterly  direction  towards  the  Swiss  frontier  is  thus 

1  "  Der  Weltkrieg,"  vol.  ii.  pp.  17,  18. 

2  Their  probable  meaning  is  discussed  on  page  301.      See  also  foot- 
note 3,  p.  300. 


"  rendered  impracticable,   and   the  new  situation  to   be   ap-  4  Sept. 
"  preciated  shows  that  the  enemy  is  bringing  up  new  formations    1914. 
"  and  concentrating  superior  forces  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
"  Paris,  to  protect  the  capital  and  to  threaten  the  right  flank 
"  of  the  German  Army. 

44  The  First  and  Second  Armies  must  therefore  remain  facing 
44  the  east  front  of  Paris.  Their  task  is  to  act  against  any 
"  operations  of  the  enemy  from  the  neighbourhood  of  Paris 
"  and  to  give  each  other  mutual  support  to  this  end. 

44  The  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies  are  still  operating  against 
"  superior  forces.  They  must  maintain  constant  pressure  to 
"  force  them  south  -  eastwards,  and  by  this  means  open  a 
"  passage  for  the  Sixth  Army  over  the  Moselle  between  Toul 
"  and  Epinal.  Whether  by  co-operating  with  the  Sixth  and 
"  Seventh  Armies  they  will  then  succeed  in  forcing  any  con- 
"  siderable  part  of  the  enemy's  forces  towards  Swiss  territory 
"  cannot  yet  be  foreseen. 

"  The  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies  will  continue  to  hold  the 
44  enemy  in  position  on  their  front,  but  will  take  the  offensive 
44  as  soon  as  possible  against  the  line  of  the  Moselle  between 
44  Toul  and  Epinal,  securing  their  flanks  against  these  fortresses. 

44  The  Third  Army  will  march  in  the  direction  Troyes — 
44  Vendeuvre  [that  is  south].  It  will  be  employed,  as  the 
44  situation  demands,  either  to  the  west  to  support  the  crossing 
44  of  the  First  and  Second  Armies  over  the  Seine,  or  to  the  south 
44  and  south-east  to  co-operate  in  the  fighting  of  our  armies 
44  on  the  left  wing. 

44  His  Majesty  therefore  orders  : 

44  (1)  The  First  and  Second  Armies  will  remain  facing  the 
44  eastern  front  of  Paris,  to  act  offensively  against  any  opera- 
44  tions  of  the  enemy  from  Paris.  The  First  Army  will  be 
44  between  the  Oise  and  the  Marne,  the  Second  Army  between 
44  the  Marne  and  the  Seine.  //.  Cavalry  Corps  will  be  with 
44  the  First  Army.  I.  Cavalry  Corps  with  the  Second  Army. 

44  (2)  The  Third  Army  will  advance  on  Troyes — Vendeuvre. 

44  (3)  The  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies,  by  a  determined  advance 
44  in  a  south-easterly  direction,  will  open  a  passage  across  the 
14  Upper  Moselle  for  the  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies.  The  right 
44  wing  of  the  Fourth  Army  will  move  through  Vitry  (on  the 
44  Marne,  45  miles  south-east  of  Rheims),  and  the  right  wing 
44  of  the  Fifth  Army  will  move  through  Revigny  (20  miles 
44  E.N.E.  of  Vitry).  The  IV.  Cavalry  Corps  will  operate  in 
44  front  of  the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies. 

44  (4)  The  task  of  the  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies  remains 
44  unchanged."  *  VON  MOLTKE. 

1  Next  day,  it  may  be  added,  von  Moltke  began  withdrawing  the  XV. 
Corps  and  7th  Cavalry  Division  from  the  left,  to  be  railed  through  Belgium 
to  reinforce  the  right. 


The  orders  to  the  First  and  Second  Armies,  it  will  be 
observed,  clearly  intended  emphasis  to  be  laid  on  their 
remaining  facing  Paris  and  not  attacking  unless  the 
enemy  moved  against  them,  for,  in  accordance  with  German 
principles,  every  commander  would  act  offensively  if 
within  reach  of  the  enemy. 

Von  Billow  took  immediate  steps  to  obey  O.H.L. 
orders  literally.  He  stopped  the  advance  of  his  Army, 
and  wheeled  the  left  wing  slightly  forward,  so  as  to  begin 
changing  the  front  gradually  from  south  to  west,  in  ex- 
pectation that  the  First  Army  would  conform.1 

The  staff  of  the  First  Army,  however,  was  puzzled  by 
the  orders,  for  the  position  of  the  troops  in  detail  had  been 
reported  by  wireless  to  O.H.L.  ;  and  the  Army  could  not 
44  remain  "  between  Oise  and  Marne,  for  the  greater  part 
of  it  had  crossed  the  Marne.  If  there  was  danger  brewing 
for  the  right  flank  in  consequence  of  further  transfers  of 
troops  to  Maunoury,  von  Kluck  considered  the  best 
method  of  conjuring  it  was  to  attack  all  along  the  line. 
After  receipt  of  the  wireless  summary  of  the  orders,  he 
therefore  sent  the  following  message  to  O.H.L.  : — 2 

44  First  Army  in  compliance  with  previous  instructions  of 
4  O.H.L.  is  advancing  via  Rebais — Montmirail  against  the  Seine. 
4  Two  corps  cover  it  towards  Paris,  on  either  side  of  the  Marne. 
4  At  Coulommiers  there  is  contact  with  about  three  English 
'  divisions,  at  Montmirail  with  the  west  flank  of  the  French. 
4  The  latter  are  offering  lively  resistance  with  rear  guards, 
4  and  should  suffer  very  considerably  if  pursuit  is  continued 
4  to  the  Seine.  They  have  hitherto  only  been  driven  back 
4  frontally  and  are  noways  beaten  out  of  the  field.  Their 
4  retreat  is  directed  on  Nogent  sur  Seine.  If  the  investment 
4  of  Paris  that  has  been  ordered  is  carried  out,  the  enemy 
4  would  be  free  to  manoeuvre  towards  Troyes.  The  strong 
4  forces  suspected  in  Paris  are  only  in  the  act  of  assembly. 
'  Parts  of  the  Field  Army  will  no  doubt  be  sent  there,  but  this 
4  will  require  time.  Consider  breaking  contact  with  the 
4  thoroughly  battle-fit  Field  Army  and  shifting  of  the  First 
4  and  Second  Armies  is  undesirable.  I  propose  instead  : — 
4  pursuit  to  be  continued  to  the  Seine  and  then  investment 
4  of  Paris." 

The  First  Army,  notwithstanding  this  proposal,  began 
to  make  preparations  to  obey  O.H.L.  orders,  but  it  was 
practically  impossible  to  get  new  instructions  to  the  corps 
in  time  to  stop  the  marches  in  progress.  The  IV.  Reserve 

1  Billow,  p.  52. 
2  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  128  et  seq.     The  time  is  not  given. 


Corps,  close  at  hand,  was  directed  to  halt  where  it  happened  5  Sept. 
to  be  on  receipt  of  the  message  ;    as  this  did  not  reach  it   1914- 
until  11  A.M.,  it  had  already  completed  its  march  for  the 
day.     To  the  //.  Cavalry  Corps  instructions  were  sent  by 
wireless  not  to  get  out  of  touch  of  the  Army  Headquarters 
by   advancing   further   south.     As   there   was    no    signal 
communication  with  the  other  corps  and   the  officers  to 
receive  orders  were  due  at  11  A.M.  in  Rebais,  no  instruc- 
tions were  sent  out  to  them.     It  was  decided  that  orders 
for  the  new  situation  should  be  issued  in  the  evening. 

During  the  day  reports  showed  that  the  Allies  were 
retreating  on  the  whole  front  from  Montmirail  to  Coulom- 
miers  and  "  there  was  no  sign  of  danger  to  the  right  flank 
north  of  the  Marne."  Towards  evening  Lieut. -Colonel 
Hentsch  arrived  from  O.H.L.  to  explain  the  situation,  and 
another  officer  brought  the  written  copy  of  the  morning 
wireless  orders.  Lieut. -Colonel  Hentsch  stated  that  the 
general  situation  was  dubious  (misslich).  The  left  wing 
was  held  up  before  Nancy — Epinal,  and,  in  spite  of  heavy 
losses,  could  not  get  on.  The  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies 
were  only  making  slow  progress.  Apparently  transfers 
of  troops  were  being  made  from  the  French  right  wing  in 
the  direction  of  Paris.  "  It  was  reported  that  further 
"  British  troops  were  about  to  land,  perhaps  at  Ostend. 
"  Assistance  to  Antwerp  by  the  British  was  probable." 
When  Lieut.-Colonel  Hentsch  was  informed  of  the  pre- 
parations that  had  been  made  to  stop  the  advance,  he 
said  "  that  they  corresponded  to  the  wishes  of  O.H.L., 
"  and  that  the  movement  could  be  made  at  leisure ;  no 
"  special  haste  was  necessary."  * 

Thus,  on  the  afternoon  of  the  5th  September,  four  corps 
of  the  German  First  Army  were  across  the  Grand  Morin 
with  two  cavalry  divisions  ahead  of  them,  but  with  only  a 
weak  flank  guard  behind  the  western  flank.  The  Army  was 
thus  well  inside  the  angle  formed  by  the  fronts  of  the  French 
Fifth  Army  and  the  British  Expeditionary  Force  with  that 
of  the  French  Sixth  Army.  Von  Kluck's  orders  for  the  6th 
were  not  issued  from  Rebais  until  10  P.M.  They  will  be 

1  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  128.  These  remarks,  it  is  stated  by  von  Kuhl, 
were  made  in  the  presence  of  a  witness,  Lieut.-Colonel  Grautoff,  the  senior 
General  Staff  officer  of  the  First  Army.  In  judging  of  the  proceedings,  von 
Kuhl  points  out  that  it  should  be  borne  in  mind  that  "  Neither  O.H.L.  nor 
"  the  First  Army  staff  had  the  remotest  idea  that  an  immediate  offensive 
"  of  the  whole  French  army  was  imminent.  The  continuation  of  the 
"  French  retreat  was  accepted  as  certain.  .  .  .  Not  a  sign,  not  a  word  from 
"  prisoners,  not  a  newspaper  paragraph  gave  warning." 


given  after  the  British  operations  for  that  day  have  been 
described.  There  was  a  collision  between  the  flank  guard 
and  the  French  Sixth  Army  near  St.  Soupplets  (7  miles 
N.N.W.  of  Meaux)  on  the  afternoon  of  the  5th  ;  but  news 
of  this  did  not  reach  von  Kluck  until  "  late  at  night  long 
after  his  orders  had  gone  out," x  and  did  not  therefore 
affect  his  decision. 

1  Kuhl's  "Marne,"  p.  133.  According  to  Kluck,  p.  98,  hostile  forces 
had  been  reported  near  Dammartin  and  St.  Mard  on  the  4th  September, 
and  General  von  Gronau,  commanding  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps,  attacked  on 
the  5th  to  clear  up  the  situation. 




(See  Sketches  2,  5,  6  &  7 ; 
Maps  2,  4,  22,  23,  24,  25,  26,  27,  28  &  29) 

IN  the  early  morning  of  the  5th,  at  3  A.M.,  a  copy  of  General  Sketch  5. 
Joffre's  "  Instruction  "  for  an  offensive  on  the  6th  was  ^a?s243' 
brought  to  British  G.H.Q.  by  a  representative  of  French   4 
General  Headquarters.     Some  inkling  of  what  this  might 
contain  had  already  reached  Sir  John  French,  for  two  of  his 
staff  officers  had  seen  General  Franchet  d'Esperey  at  his 
headquarters  on  the  afternoon  of  the  4th,  and  to  them  that 
commander  had  explained  the  plan  of  a  proposed  attack, 
which   was   practically   the   same   as   that   now   ordered. 
During   the   5th,   General   Maunoury,   and   later   General 
Joffre,  visited  the  Field-Marshal ;    the  situation  was  fully 
discussed,  and  all  arrangements  were  made  to  begin  the 
attack  all  along  the  line  next  day. 

It  was  significant  that  General  Joffre's  instructions  for 
the  offensive  x  dealt  first  with  the  Armies  of  the  left.  Their 
general  purport  was  that  the  two  centre  Armies  should  hold 
on  whilst  the  three  Armies  on  the  left  (including  the  British 
Army),  and  the  Third  Army  on  the  right,  attacked  the 
flanks  of  the  German  forces  which  were  endeavouring  to 
push  forward  between  Verdun  and  Paris.  On  the  extreme 
left,  the  Sixth  Army,  with  the  I.  Cavalry  Corps,  was  to  cross 
the  Ourcq  north-east  of  Meaux,  between  Lizy  sur  Ourcq  and 
May  en  Multien  (4  miles  north  of  Lizy),  and  attack  east- 
wards in  the  direction  of  Chateau  Thierry.  (Owing  to  the 
progress  of  the  enemy,  these  orders  were  subsequently 
altered  to  an  advance  on  Meaux.)  The  British  Army, 
facing  east,  was  to  attack  from  the  front  Changis  (7  miles 
east  of  Meaux) — Coulommiers  in  the  general  direction  of 
Montmirail,  the  French  II.  Cavalry  Corps  ensuring  connec- 
1  See  Appendices  32  and  33  where  they  are  given  in  exlenso. 

272  THE  MARNE 

tion  between  it  and  the  Fifth  Army.  The  Fifth  Army 
(General  Franchet  d'Esperey)  was  to  attack  northwards. 
In  the  centre,  the  Ninth  Army  (General  Foch)  was  to  cover 
the  right  of  the  Fifth  Army,  by  holding  the  southern  exits 
of  the  passages  over  the  St.  Gond  marshes  (the  gathering 
ground  of  the  Petit  Morin),  but  with  part  of  its  forces  on  the 
plateau  west  of  the  marshes.  On  the  right,  the  Fourth  (de 
Langle  de  Gary)  and  Third  (Sarrail)  Armies  were  to  act  in 
conjunction,  the  former  holding  the  enemy  whilst  the  latter 
was  to  attack  westwards  against  the  flank  of  the  Germans 
advancing  along  the  eastern  edge  of  the  Argonne. 

Unfortunately,  these  orders  not  having  reached  Sir  John 
French's  headquarters  until  the  early  morning  of  the  5th, 
the  British  Army  acted  on  General  Joffre's  previous  in- 
structions, and  starting  early — the  II.  Corps  before  mid- 
night and  the  I.  and  III.  Corps  before  daybreak, — continued 
to  retire  as  already  related  during  the  early  part  of  the  day. 
Thus  on  the  night  of  the  5th  it  was  12  to  15  miles  in  rear 
of  the  position  in  which  the  French  Commander-in-Chief 
expected  it  to  be. 

The  ground  over  which  the  British  Army  was  about  to 
advance  forms  part  of  the  great  plateau,  east  and  north-east 
of  Paris,  whose  eastern  edge,  roughly  indicated  by  Craonne 
— Rheims — Epernay — Nogent  sur  Seine,  is  400  to  500  feet 
above  the  plain  of  Champagne.  It  is  a  country  of  great 
open  spaces  ;  highly  cultivated,  dotted  with  woods  and 
villages,  but  with  no  great  forests  except  those  of  Crecy, 
Armainvillers  and  Malvoisine,  all  south  of  Coulommiers.  It 
is  cut  into  from  east  to  west  by  the  deep  valleys,  almost 
ravines,  of  the  Grand  Morin,  the  Petit  Morin,  the  Marne, 
the  upper  course  of  the  Ourcq,  the  Vesle,  the  Aisne  and  the 
Ailette.  These  rivers  are  passable  only  at  the  bridges  or  by 
bridging,  and  form  ideal  lines  on  which  to  fight  delaying 
actions.  Otherwise,  the  region  on  the  east  of  the  line 
Soissons — Meaux  presents  no  definite  positions. 

Sir  John  French's  operation  orders  issued  at  5.15  P.M. 
on  the  5th  September  directed  the  Army  to  advance  east- 
ward with  a  view  to  attacking,  and,  as  a  preliminary,  to 
wheel  to  the  east  pivoting  on  its  right,  so  that  it  would  come 
on  to  the  line — roughly  parallel  to  the  Grand  Morin  and 
7  miles  from  it — La  Chapelle  Iger  (south-east  of  Rozoy) — 
Villeneuve  le  Comte — Bailly  (5  miles  south-west  of  Crecy).1 

1  Sir  John  French's  operation  orders  and  the  operation  orders  of  the 
Cavalry  Division  and  the  I.,  II.  and  III.  Corps  will  be  found  in  Appendices 
34  to  38. 


OPERATIONS,    6-13  SEPTEMBER,  1914. 

A dvance  of  B.E.F. 
Positions  at  night  are  shown  by  dates. 






EsternayJ  Fere  o 

-P  f  Champenoise 


o  Provins 

MILES    543210 



20  MILES 

Ordnance   Survey,   1920. 


This  movement  was  to  be  completed  by  the  right  wing  by  6  Sept. 
9  A.M.  and  the  left  by  10  A.M.     The  Cavalry  Division,  and  1914- 
the  3rd  and  5th  Cavalry  Brigades   acting  together  under 
General  Gough,1  were  to  cover  the  front  and  flanks  of  the 
force,  and  connect  with  the  French  Armies  between  which 
the  British  were  moving. 

Pezarches,  5  miles  to  the  north  of  Rozoy,  the  1st  Divi- 
sion's halting-place  on  the  5th,  was  reached  about  7  A.M. 
by  General  Gough  without  opposition,  and  thence  patrols 
were  pushed  out  northwards-  towards  the  Forest  of  Mal- 
voisine,  north-eastwards  upon  Mauperthuis  and  eastwards 
upon  Touquin.  At  all  these  points  and  also  in  the  Forest 
of  Crecy  touch  was  gained  with  the  enemy ;  and  the 
advanced  parties  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  on  the  right 
flank,  pressing  on  to  Pecy  (5  miles  south-east  of  Rozoy), 
found  themselves  in  the  presence  of  formidable  forces. 
Large  masses  of  German  cavalry  could  be  seen  moving 
southwards  upon  Jouy  le  Chatel  (east  of  Pe*cy),2  but  heavy 
hostile  columns  observed  on  the  road  north  of  Pe*cy, 
suddenly  and  without  assignable  cause,  turned  about  while 
still  two  miles  distant,  and  counter-marched  to  the  north.3 

This  happened  between  8  and  9  A.M.  ;  but  immediately 
afterwards  the  German  cavalry  and  artillery  became  aggres- 
sive on  the  right  flank.  The  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  was 
shelled  out  of  Pecy  and  compelled  to  retire  for  a  short 
distance  until  the  rest  of  the  division  could  come  up.  The 
leading  regiment  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade,  somewhat 
later,  was  forced  back  from  Touquin,  then  shelled  out  of 
Pezarches  and  finally,  having  no  guns  in  support,  was 
driven  back  to  Rigny  (1  mile  south-west  of  Pezarches). 
As  it  retired  German  battalions  *  were  seen  moving  west- 
ward from  Vaudoy  towards  Rozoy  ;  this  column,  which 
had  been  sighted  by  the  Flying  Corps  earlier  in  the  morning, 
was  described  by  the  observers  as  being  of  the  strength  of 

1  Henceforward,  until  officially  designated  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division 
on  the  16th  September,  the  3rd  and  5th  Cavalry  Brigades  acted  together 
under  the  command  of  Brig.-General  Hubert  Gough,  and  the  Cavalry 
Division  contained  the  1st,  2nd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades.  Brig.-General 
J.  Vaughan  succeeded  General  Gough  in  command  of  the  3rd  Cavalry 

8  The  German  11.  Cavalry  Corps  had  orders  to  demonstrate  towards 
Lumigny — Rozoy  to  cover  the  withdrawal  of  the  right  of  the  German 
First  Army. 

3  This  was  part  of  the  German  IV.  Corps. 

4  If  von  Kluck's  map  is  correct,  these  must  have  been  Jdger.     There 
were  four  battalions,  Nos.  3,  4,  9, 10,  with  the  2nd  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions 
("  Militar  Wochenblatt,"  No.  11, 1920).    According  to  Kluck,  pp.  152-3;  the 
3rd  and  4th  Jdger  were  carried  in  motor  lorries. 

VOL.  I  T 

274  THE  MARNE 

a  brigade,  with  a  brigade  of  artillery  attached  to  it. 
Sketch  o.  The  leading  troops  of  the  I.  Corps,  the  advanced  guard 
Map  23.  of  the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade,  found  themselves  checked 
when  no  more  than  two  miles  east  of  Rozoy  by  this  party 
of  the  enemy  ;  and,  the  II.  Corps  being  still  near  La 
Houssaye  (6  miles  north-west  of  Rozoy),  5  miles  in  rear 
of  the  I.,  General  Haig  felt  uneasy  about  his  left,  over- 
shadowed as  it  was  by  the  great  forests  of  Crecy  and  Mal- 
voisine,  which  could  easily  conceal  large  numbers  of  the 
enemy.  He  therefore  directed  the  1st  Division  to  halt,  and 
its  advanced  guard  to  take  up  a  covering  position.  On 
receiving  Haig's  report  of  this  action,  the  Commander-in- 
Chief  sent  orders  to  the  II.  Corps  to  close  in  on  the  I.  to 
Lumigny  (4  miles  north  of  Rozoy). 

West  of  the  I.  Corps,  the  II.  and  III.  Corps  had  marched 
north-eastward  at  5  A.M.  and  3  A.M.,  respectively,  to  a  line 
running  from  CreVecreur  (4  miles  W.N.W.  of  Pezarches), 
north-westward  through  Villeneuve  le  Comte  to  Serris  (6 
miles  west  of  Cr6cy).  Both  corps  reached  this  destination 
in  the  forenoon,  without  molestation ;  for,  though  hostile 
patrols  were  encountered  as  the  columns  moved  through 
the  Forest  of  Crecy,  the  main  body  of  the  Germans,  esti- 
mated at  a  cavalry  division,  retired  at  once.  Shortly 
after  11  A.M.,  however,  the  II.  Corps  as  already  mentioned, 
and  also  the  III.  Corps,  received  the  Commander-in-Chief  s 
orders  to  close  in  to  the  left  of  the  I.  Corps  ;  and  between  1 
and  1.30  P.M.  they  resumed  their  march  in  the  new  direction. 
By  3  P.M.  their  approach  had  cleared  the  enemy  from  the 
left  flank  of  the  I.  Corps  ;  and  shortly  afterwards  the  1st 
Division,  again  advancing  upon  Vaudoy,  found  that  the 
Germans  had  evacuated  their  positions  and  retreated  north- 
ward. The  enemy  had,  in  fact,  upon  this  day  reached  the 
extreme  limit  of  his  advance,  and  by  6  P.M.  the  Flying  Corps 
reported  that  there  were  no  important  bodies  south  of  the 
Petit  Morin  except  at  Rebais. 

At  3.30  P.M.  Sir  John  French  issued  orders  by  telegraph 
for  the  I.  Corps  to  advance  to  a  line  just  short  of  the  Grand 
Morin,  from  Marolles  (4  miles  E.S.E.  of  Coulommiers)  to 
Les  Parichets  (1  mile  south-west  of  Coulommiers)';  for  the 
II.  Corps  to  come  up  to  west  of  it  from  Les  Parichets  to 
Mortcerf  (5  miles  south  of  Cr£cy) ;  and  for  the  III.  Corps 
to  move  up  into  the  loop  of  the  Grand  Morin  south- 
westward  of  Crecy,  between  Tigeaux  (2J  miles  south  of 
Crecy)  and  Villiers  sur  Morin  (2J  miles  north-west  of 
Tigeaux).  The  Cavalry  Division  was  to  advance  north- 


east  to  the  line  Choisy  —  Chevru  (4  miles  and  6  miles  6  Sept. 
south-west  of  La  Ferte  Gaucher),  and  cover  the  right  1914- 
flank ;  and  Gough's  cavalry  brigades  were  sent  in  rear  of 
the  left  of  the  I.  Corps.  But  by  the  time  that  these  orders 
reached  the  I.  Corps,  it  was  too  late  for  it  to  make  more 
than  a  short  move  to  the  line  Vaudoy — Touquin — Pe- 
zarches,  8  miles  short  of  its  intended  destination,  where  it 
halted  at  6.30  P.M.  In  the  II.  Corps,  however,  the  head  of 
the  3rd  Division  reached  Faremoutiers  :  whence,  after  a 
few  skirmishes  with  the  German  piquets,  the  1st  Wiltshire 
of  the  7th  Infantry  Brigade,  at  11  P.M.,  forced  the  passage 
of  the  Grand  Morin  and  seized  the  heights  of  Le  Chamois, 
about  a  mile  north  of  the  river.  The  other  divisions  of 
the  II.  and  III.  Corps  also  got  to  their  places.  The  final 
positions  taken  up  for  the  night  were  as  follows,  the  heads 
of  the  II.  and  III.  Corps  being  up  to  the  Grand  Morin  and 
the  I.  Corps  and  cavalry  echeloned  to  the  right  rear : — 
Cavalry  Division  .  Jouy  le  Chatel.  Sketch  6 

I.  Corps Vaudoy— Touquin— Pezarches. 

Gough's  Cavalry  Brigades         .  Pezarches — Lumigny. 

II.  Corps  : 

3rd  Division  .  .  .  .  Lumigny  northward  to  Fare- 

5th  Division  ....  Mortcerf  northward  to  La  Celle 

sur  Morin  (1J  miles  west  of 

III.  Corps Villiers  sur   Morin  southward 

to  Villeneuve  le  Comte  and 
Villeneuve  St.  Denis. 

The  intelligence  gathered  during  the  day  was  that  the 
///.  and  IX.  German  Corps,  with  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division 
on  their  western  flank,  were  opposing  the  French  Fifth 
Army  south  of  the  Grand  Morin  on  the  line  Esternay — 
Montceaux — Couperdriz  (5  miles  W.S.W.  of  Montceaux). 
Echeloned  to  the  west  in  second  line  between  the  Grand  and 
Petit  Morin  were  part  of  the  German  IV.  Corps  at  Rebais, 
with  the  5th  Cavalry  Division  in  front  of  it  north  of 
Marolles,  and  the  X.  Reserve  Corps  (as  was  conjectured) 
west  of  Montmirail.  The  //.  Corps  and  2nd  and  9th 
Cavalry  Divisions  were  opposite  the  British ;  and  the 
remainder  of  the  IV.  Corps9  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  and  the 
4th  Cavalry  Division  opposite  the  French  Sixth  Army.  The 
operations  had  also  established  the  fact  that  the  units  of 
the  17.  Corps  which  had  been  engaged  with  the  British  left 

276  THE  MARNE 

during  the  day,  had  withdrawn  across  the  Grand  Morin. 
The  2nd  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions  were  at  nightfall  north- 
east of  Crecy  and  moving  to  cross  the  Marne  a  little  east 
of  Meaux.  Both  the  Fifth  and  Sixth  French  Armies  were 
reported  to  have  pressed  the  enemy  back  ;  but  their  situa- 
tion was  still  so  imperfectly  known  that  at  7  P.M.  Sir  John 
French  issued  no  orders  for  the  7th  September  except  a 
Special  Order  of  the  Day *  and  a  warning  that  all  the  troops 
should  be  ready  to  move  at  short  notice  any  time  after  8 
A.M.  By  evening  practically  all  the  "  First  reinforcements  " 
for  the  British  Army  had  arrived  from  the  Base. 


Sketch  6.  Owing  to  delay  in  transit,  the  instructions  from  General 
2*a&S  t'  JonC]re  to  push  on,  giving  information  that  the  Sixth  Army 
'  had  been  successful,  did  not  reach  G.H.Q.  at  Melun  till 
11  A.M.  on  the  7th.  But  the  British  cavalry  was  early  on  the 
move ;  the  Cavalry  Division  on  the  right  pushed  eastward 
to  the  Grand  Morin,  upon  Leudon  (3£  miles  south  of  La 
Ferte  Gaucher)  and  Choisy,  and  the  3rd  and  5th  Cavalry 
Brigades  on  its  left,  northward  upon  Chailly  and  Coulom- 
miers.  The  advanced  parties  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade 
found  that  the  Germans  had  left  Mauperthuis  (3  miles 
south  of  the  Grand  Morin)  just  as  they  themselves  entered 
it,  and  overtook  a  few  stragglers  a  mile  further  on,  who  were 
driven  towards  the  river  under  effective  fire  from  E  Battery 
R.H.A.  The  enemy  seemed  to  be  withdrawing  his  covering 
troops  northward.  The  4th  Cavalry  Brigade,  advancing 
further  east,  came  upon  cavalry,  cyclists  and  guns  south 
of  Dagny  (2  miles  south-west  of  Choisy),  and  forced 
them  back  north  and  east  across  the  front  of  the  2nd 
Cavalry  Brigade  ;  and  the  9th  Lancers,  who  were  at  the 
head  of  the  latter  brigade,  thereupon  pushed  on  to  the 
hamlet  of  Moncel,  a  mile  and  a  half  to  the  south-east  of 
Dagny,  which  was  held  by  the  enemy.  A  German  patrol 
was  driven  out,  and  it  was  then  occupied  by  a  squadron  of 
the  9th.  A  troop  of  the  9th  was  sent  northward  to  protect 
the  left  flank  of  this  squadron  ;  another  troop,  with  Lieut.  - 
Colonel  D.  G.  M.  Campbell  and  the  headquarters  of  the  regi- 
ment, halted  at  the  northern  outskirts  of  the  village,  and  the 
machine-gun  section  was  posted  in  an  orchard  to  the  west 
of  it.  A  patrol  presently  reported  the  advance  of  a  German 
squadron,  one  hundred  and  twenty  strong,  which  came  up 

1  Appendix  39. 


at  a  canter  in  one  rank  towards  Colonel  Campbell's  party.  7  Sept. 
Unfortunately  the  machine  gun  jammed  immediately  ; 1  1914- 
but  Colonel  Campbell  with  about  thirty  men  charged 
at  once  at  top  speed.  The  Germans  did  not  increase 
their  pace  to  meet  the  shock  and  were  completely  over- 
whelmed, as  far  as  the  narrow  front  of  the  9th  Lancers 
extended.  Colonel  Campbell  was  wounded,  but  the  sur- 
vivors were  rallied  and  led  back  into  Moncel ;  the  Germans, 
fearing  a  trap,  did  not  follow.  Further  to  the  right,  a 
squadron  of  the  18th  Hussars  working  its  way  forward  on 
foot  was  charged  just  beyond  Faujus  (2J  miles  south  of 
Choisy)  by  a  weak  German  squadron,2  which  it  practically 
annihilated  by  rapid  fire  at  two  hundred  yards'  range. 
Sixty -three  of  the  1st  Guard  Dragoons  were  killed  or 
wounded  in  this  affair,  and  only  three  escaped  ;  the  18th 
Hussars  had  only  two  of  their  led  horses  slightly  wounded. 

To  the  west  of  the  cavalry,  the  Wiltshire,  in  their  ad- 
vanced position  across  the  Grand  Morin  near  Le  Chamois 
(4  miles  west  of  Coulommiers),  were  attacked  at  6  A.M. 
by  some  two  hundred  dismounted  men  of  the  Guard 
Cavalry  Division,  whom  they  beat  off  without  any  difficulty. 
The  2/South  Lancashire,  also,  making  their  way  forward  to 
cover  the  right  of  the  Wiltshire,  were  engaged  by  the  enemy 
in  the  woodlands  and  suffered  some  loss.  Cyclist  patrols 
of  the  III.  Corps  ascertained  that  by  7  A.M.  the  ground 
within  a  radius  of  3  miles  north  and  north-west  of  Crecy 
on  the  Grand  Morin  was  clear.  Aerial  reconnaissances  con- 
firmed the  general  impression  that  the  enemy  was  with- 
drawing northward,  though  there  were  still  considerable 
bodies  both  of  cavalry  and  infantry  just  north  of  the 
Grand  Morin  beyond  La  Ferte  Gaucher. 

Acting  upon  this  information  the  Field-Marshal  issued 
orders  at  8  A.M.  for  the  Army  to  continue  its  advance  north- 
eastward across  the  river  in  the  general  direction  of  Rebais. 
The  corps  were  to  march  upon  as  close  a  front  as  the  roads 
would  permit,  and  on  reaching  the  line  Dagny — Coulom- 
miers— Maisoncelles  (6  miles  north-west  of  Coulommiers), 
heads  of  columns  were  to  halt  and  await  further  orders. 
Meanwhile,  the  Cavalry  Division  moved  northward,  making 
good  the  course  of  the  Grand  Morin  as  far  east  as  La  Ferte 

1  The  German  account  in  Vogel  is  that  the  gun  was  spotted,  and  that 
a  sergeant  and  six  men  galloped  up,  drove  off'  the  gun  crew  and  damaged 
the  mechanism  with  a  stone  ;    otherwise  the  two  accounts  agree.     The 
attackers  were  Rittmeister  von  Gayling's  (2nd)  squadron,  1st  Guard  Dragoons. 

2  Two-thirds  of  the  4th  Squadron,  1st  Guard  Dragoons  ("Deutsche 
Kavallerie,"  p.  99). 


Gaucher;  it  met  nothing  but  a  few  patrols,  but  ascer- 
tained that  a  German  cavalry  brigade  and  a  battery  had 
re-crossed  the  Grand  Morin  at  3  P.M.  The  5th  and  3rd 
Cavalry  Brigades  also  pushed  northward,  the  former  on 
Rebais,  the  latter  on  Coulommiers.  The  3rd  met  with 
some  little  resistance  at  the  bridges  over  the  Grand  Morin 
just  east  of  Coulommiers,  and  its  guns  came  into  action  to 
silence  some  German  artillery  on  the  north  bank  of  the 
stream,  and  to  shell  retiring  parties  of  the  enemy.  This 
caused  some  delay,  but  the  brigade  was  able  to  pursue  its 
way  4  miles  towards  Doue,  where  it  was  checked  by 
infantry  and  machine  guns.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade, 
with  little  hindrance,  between  5  and  6  P.M.  reached  Rebais, 
whence  the  German  rear  parties  retired  leaving  a  few 
prisoners  in  the  hands  of  the  British. 

Behind  the  cavalry  screen,  the  infantry  continued  its 
march  without  serious  incident ;  and  there  was  cheering 
evidence  of  the  enemy's  demoralization.  The  country  near 
the  roads  was  littered  with  empty  bottles  ;  and  the  in- 
habitants reported  much  drunkenness  among  the  Germans. 
Indeed,  some  British  artillery  drivers  while  cutting  hay 
discovered  German  soldiers,  helplessly  drunk,  concealed 
under  the  topmost  layer  of  the  stack.  The  arrival  of  the 
44  First  reinforcements  "  had  also  tended  to  raise  the  spirits 
of  the  men. 

Sketch  6.       The  positions  taken  up  by  the  Army  for  the  night  of 
Map  24.  the  7th  beyond  and  along  the  Grand  Morin  were  as  follows : — 

5th  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades,     North  of  the  Grand  Morin  on 
and  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  the  west  side  of  Rebais. 

Cavalry  Division  . ,  .  .  South  of  the  Grand  Morin  at 

Choisy,  Feraubry. 

3rd  Infantry  Brigade  .  .  La  Bochetiere  (1J  miles  south- 
east of  Choisy). 

I.  Corps   (less    3rd    and    4th     South  of  the  Grand  Morin  from 
Brigades)  Jouy  sur  Morin  to  St.  Simeon. 

II.  Corps North  of  the  Grand  Morin  from 

Chauffry  to  Coulommiers. 

III.  Corps North  of  the  Grand  Morin  from 

Giremoutiers   to    La   Haute 

Maps  4       Throughout   this    day   the   Fifth   and    Sixth    French 

&24.    Armies   continued   to  make  good   progress.     By  evening 

General  Franchet  d'Esperey,  with  three  out  of  his  four 


corps  across  the  Grand  Morin,  had  reached  the  line  7  Sept. 
from  Charleville  (7  miles  south-east  of  Montmirail)  to  1914- 
La  Ferte  Gaucher  ;  while  General  Maunoury,  having  ad- 
vanced to  the  line  Penchard — fitrepilly — Betz,  some  five 
miles  west  of  the  Ourcq,  was  able  to  report  that  German 
artillery  was  retiring  to  the  western  bank  of  that  river.1 
Aerial  reconnaissance  indicated  that  von  Kluck  was  with- 
drawing two  of  his  corps  (//.  and  IV.)  with  all  haste  north- 
ward ;  and,  from  identifications  by  contact  during  the  day 
and  the  fact  that  two  German  cavalry  divisions  had  been 
seen  between  5.15  and  6.30  P.M.  moving  into  bivouac  at 
Orly  (3J  miles  north  and  a  little  west  of  Rebais),  with  yet 
more  cavalry  passing  northward  to  the  east  of  them, 
it  seemed  as  if  the  enemy  was  trusting  to  the  /.  and 
//.  Cavalry  Corps  2  to  hold  the  British  in  check  during 
a  change  of  dispositions.  But  the  Marne  lay  in  the  way  of 
any  German  movement  northward,  and  the  congestion 
reported  at  the  bridge  of  La  Fert6  sous  Jouarre  was  such 
as  to  offer  good  results  from  a  rapid  advance  towards  that 
point.  It  was  also  reported,  however,  that  a  considerable 
force  of  the  enemy  lay  at  Pierre  Levee  (5  miles  south- 
west of  the  bridge)  to  guard  against  any  such  attempt.3 
Indeed,  the  left  of  the  British  III.  Corps  had  not  been 
allowed  to  take  up  its  position  between  Maisoncelles  and  La 
Haute  Maison,  some  two  or  three  miles  only  from  Pierre 
Levee,  without  being  shelled.  The  8th  September,  there- 
fore, promised  to  be  an  important  day. 

General  Joffre's  General  Order  No.  7,  issued  at  5.20  P.M. 
on  the  7th  September,  directed  the  Armies  on  the  left  to 
follow  the  enemy  with  the  bulk  of  their  forces,  but  in  such 
a  manner  as  always  to  retain  the  possibility  of  enveloping 
the  German  right  wing.  For  this  purpose,  the  French 
Sixth  Army  was  to  gain  ground  gradually  towards  the  north 
on  the  right  bank  of  the  Ourcq  ;  the  British  forces  were  to 
endeavour  to  get  a  footing  "in  succession  (sic) across  the  Petit 
"  Morin,  the  Grand  Morin  and  the  Marne  "  ;  the  Fifth  Army 
was  to  accentuate  the  movement  of  its  left  wing,  and  with 
its  right  support  the  Ninth  Army.  The  road  Sablonnieres 

1  The  fighting  on  the  western  flank  during  the  battle  of  the  Marne 
between  the  French  Sixth  Army  and  the  German  First  Army  is  known 
as  the  "  Battle  of  the  Ourcq." 

2  It  is  again  recalled  that  each  of  these  cavalry  corps  contained  at 
least  five  infantry  (Jdger)  battalions  besides  cyclist  companies  and  machine- 
gun  companies.     (See  Appendix  7.) 

3  Four  Jager  battalions  and  a  cavalry  brigade  according  to  Kuhl's 
"  Marne,"  p.  207. 

280  THE  MARNE 

— Nogent  PArtaud — Chateau  Thierry,  allotted  to  the 
British,  was  made  the  boundary  between  them  and  the 
Fifth  Army. 

Accordingly,  on  the  evening  of  the  7th  September,  the 
Field-Marshal  issued  orders  x  for  the  advance  to  be  con- 
tinued against  the  line  of  the  Marne  from  Nogent  PArtaud 
to  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  :  the  cavalry  to  push  on  in  pur- 
suit, keeping  touch  with  the  French  Fifth  Army  on  the 
right,  and  with  the  Sixth  Army  on  the  left.  The  Grand 
Morin  was  already  behind  the  British,  but  before  the  Marne 
could  be  reached,  the  Petit  Morin  had  to  be  crossed  :  a 
stream  running  through  a  narrow  valley,  with  steep, 
wooded  sides,  approachable  only  through  close,  intricate 
country,  studded  with  innumerable  copses,  villages  and 
hamlets,  and  with  only  six  bridges  in  the  section  in 
question.  The  Marne  itself  runs  through  a  valley  of 
similar  character,  though  on  a  larger  scale,  so  that  the 
ground  was  all  in  favour  of  the  enemy's  rear  guards. 


Sketch  6.  The  cavalry  moved  off  at  4  A.M.  covering  the  front  of 
^e  ^*  an<^  ^*  ^orPs*  ^n  ^ne  Cavalry  Division,  the  1st  and 
2nd  Brigades  made  for  the  line  of  the  Petit  Morin  from 
Bellot  (due  north  of  La  Ferte  Gaucher)  westward  to  La 
Tretoire,  with  the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade  in  support.  Gough's 
5th  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  on  its  left  headed  for  the  river 
from  La  Tretoire  to  St.  Cyr.  The  5th  Dragoon  Guards,  at 
the  head  of  the  Cavalry  Division,  moved  by  La  Ferte 
Gaucher  on  Sablonnieres,  a  little  to  the  west  of  Bellot,  and 
driving  scattered  parties  of  German  horsemen  before  them, 
plunged  down  into  the  wooded  valley  of  the  Petit  Morin. 
The  two  bridges  at  Sablonnieres  were  reported  to  be  lightly 
held,  but  a  direct  advance  upon  them  was  found  to  be 
impossible  owing  to  the  enemy's  rifle  fire  ;  and  an  attempt 
to  turn  the  position  from  the  east  by  way  of  Bellot  was  also 
checked.  At  the  western  bridge,  to  which  the  approach 
lay  over  the  railway  bridge,  the  4th  Dragoon  Guards  of 
the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  tried  to  carry  both  by  a  rush, 
and  secured  the  first,  but  were  foiled  at  the  river  bridge 
which  was  barricaded.  On  their  left,  3  miles  further 
westward,  a  reconnoitring  party  of  the  Greys  discovered 
just  south  of  the  river,  near  Gibraltar  (1J  miles  S.S.W.  of 
Orly),  half  a  battalion  of  Jager  and  a  cavalry  brigade  com- 

1  Appendix  40. 


fortably  eating  their  breakfasts.  Stealing  back  unper-  8  Sept. 
ceived  they  were  able  to  indicate  this  target  to  a  section  of  * 
J  Battery  at  Boisbaudry,  which  broke  up  the  German 
picnic  abruptly  with  shrapnel,  and  sent  the  enemy  fleeing 
across  the  valley  with  considerable  loss.  German  artillery, 
however,  forbade  any  further  advance  of  the  2nd  Cavalry 
Brigade,  and  the  5th  was  likewise  brought  to  a  standstill. 
On  the  left  of  it  again,  the  5th  Lancers  of  the  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigade  penetrated  into  St.  Cyr,  and  D  Battery  did  some 
execution  among  the  Germans  retreating  before  them.  But 
very  soon  the  enemy  counter-attacked,  drove  the  5th 
Lancers  out  of  St.  Cyr,  and  stopped  further  progress  by  a 
heavy  crossfire  of  artillery  from  the  high  ground  above 
Orly  (opposite  Gibraltar).  D  and  E  Batteries,  being  in  an 
exposed  position,  were  for  the  time  out  of  action,  for  their 
teams  could  not  come  up  to  shift  them,  and  the  detach- 
ments were  obliged  to  leave  their  guns  and  take  cover.  By 
about  8.30  A.M.  the  whole  of  the  British  cavalry  was  at  a 
standstill,  the  hostile  rear  guards  being  too  strong  and  too 
well  posted  to  be  dislodged  until  further  forces  arrived. 

On  the  extreme  left,  infantry  of  the  4th  Division  ascer- 
tained between  3  and  4  A.M.  that  the  enemy  had  evacuated 
Pierre  Levee,  which  defended  the  approaches  to  La  Ferte 
sous  Jouarre  ;  and  at  6  A.M.  the  12th  and  19th  Infantry 
Brigades  advanced,  the  former  upon  Jouarre,  the  latter  on 
its  left  upon  Signy  Signets.  Aerial  reconnaissances  about 
this  hour  reported  a  great  number  of  the  enemy  massed 
about  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre,  waiting  their  turn  to  cross  the 
river,  whilst  the  passage  of  infantry  over  the  bridge  was  un- 
ceasing.1 But  the  movement  of  the  British  was  necessarily 
slow,  for  there  were  many  copses  and  coverts  to  be  cleared 
in  front,  and  a  large  belt  of  wood — the  Bois  de  Jouarre — on 
the  right  flank.  No  serious  opposition  however  was  en- 
countered until  about  11  A.M.,  when  the  leading  battalion 
of  the  19th  Infantry  Brigade  had  passed  beyond  Signy 
Signets  and  reached  the  ridge  overlooking  the  Marne, 
where  it  was  caught  by  artillery  fire  from  the  heights  just 
north-west  of  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre.  No  great  damage  was 
done  ;  and  the  German  guns  were  soon  silenced  by  two 
batteries  of  the  XXIX.  Brigade  R.F.A.  But  the  brushing 
away  of  the  enemy's  advanced  troops  revealed  the  German 
main  body  holding  the  north  bank  of  the  Marne  in  strength, 
with  a  bridgehead,  well  provided  with  machine  guns,  at  La 

1  According  to  the  maps  in  von  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  the  whole  of  the  5th 
Division  passed  through  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  on  the  8th. 

282  THE  MARNE 

Fert£  sous  Jouarre.1  It  was  thus  evident  that  the  passage 
of  the  Marne  would  not  be  easily  forced  ;  and  there  was 
nothing  for  the  moment  to  be  done  but  to  bring  the  artillery 
forward  to  knock  out  the  machine  guns,  and  to  seek  a  way 
round.  This  was  exasperating,  for  heavy  columns  of  the 
enemy  were  still  crossing  the  river  at  La  Ferte,  and  masses 
of  men  were  in  sight  on  the  northern  bank,  but  out  of 

Meanwhile  on  the  right  of  the  Force,  shortly  before  9 
A.M.,  the  advanced  guard  of  the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade  (the 
I/Black  Watch  and  the  117th  Battery  R.F.A.)  reached  the 
edge  of  the  plateau  above  Bellot,  and  passed  down  a  narrow 
defile  into  the  valley  of  the  Petit  Morin,  German  shrapnel 
bursting  over  their  heads  as  they  marched.  The  118th  and 
119th  Batteries  unlimbered  near  the  crest  of  the  hill,  and 
soon  silenced  the  German  guns.  By  9.30  A.M.  the  Black 
Watch  reached  Bellot,  where  they  found  French  cavalry  in 
possession  but  unable  to  advance  ;  pushing  through  the 
village,  they  crossed  the  river  and  entered  the  woods  on  its 
north  side.  They  then  turned  westward  upon  Sablonnieres 
to  facilitate  the  crossing  there,  but  were  stubbornly  opposed 
by  dismounted  cavalry  and  the  Guard  Jager,  until  the 
Cameron  Highlanders,  with  dismounted  troopers  of  the  4th 
Cavalry  Brigade,  came  to  their  assistance.  The  advent  of 
the  Camerons  was  decisive ;  and  soon  after  1  P.M.  the 
British  were  masters  of  Sablonnieres  and  of  over  sixty 
German  prisoners.2 

While  this  was  going  forward,  the  2nd  Division,  next  on 
the  left,  headed  by  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  and  the 
XXXVI.  and  XLI.  Brigades  R.F.A.,  had  come  up  to  La 
Tretoire  at  the  edge  of  the  plateau  overlooking  the  Petit 
Morin,  and  had  been  greeted,  like  the  1st  Brigade,  with 
continuous  shrapnel  fire  from  batteries  on  the  heights 
opposite  in  the  vicinity  of  Boitron.  The  British  guns  soon 
compelled  the  Germans  to  move ;  but  skilfully  placed 
machine  guns  made  the  advance  of  infantry  across  the  river 
valley  a  very  difficult  matter  ;  and  the  3rd  Coldstream 
tried  in  vain  to  make  their  way  down  to  the  water.  The 
Irish  Guards  were  sent  to  their  help,  but  could  make  no 

1  According  to  von  Kluck,  La  Ferte  was  defended  by  the  2nd  Cavalry 
Division,  with  the  9th  west  of  it ;  according  to  von  Altheim's  "  lste  Garde- 
Dragoner  Regiment  im  Kriege,  1914-18,"  the  5th  was  at  Orly  and  the  Guard 
at  Boitron.    The  retirement  to  the  north  of  the  Marne  was  ordered  by  von 
der  Marwitz  at  10  A.M.  ("Deutsche  Kavallerie,"  p.  102). 

2  According  to  Vogel,  the  troops  which  defended  Bellot  and  Sablon- 
nieres were  the  Garde-du-korps  and  Garde-Kilrassiere  regiments  and  part 
of  the  Garde-Jdger  battalion. 


progress  ;  and  both  battalions  were  withdrawn  whilst  the  &  Sept. 
valley  was  further  searched  by  artillery.  The  XLIV. 
Brigade  R.F.A.  came  into  action,  and  also  the  35th  Heavy 
Battery,  near  La  Tretoire.  About  noon  the  two  battalions 
again  advanced,  whilst  on  their  left  the  2 /Worcestershire, 
at  the  head  of  the  5th  Infantry  Brigade,  moved  down 
on  Becherelle  (1J  miles  N.N.W.  of  La  Tretoire),  east  of 
which  was  a  bridge  ;  and  on  their  right  the  2/Grenadiers 
and  2/Coldstream  on  La  Forge,  where  there  was  another 
bridge.  This  attack  on  a  front  of  nearly  a  mile  and  a  half 
was  pushed  successfully  as  far  as  the  road  which  runs 
parallel  with  the  Petit  Morin  on  its  southern  bank.  The 
Worcestershire  then  carried  the  bridge  near  Becherelle, 
capturing  a  few  prisoners  in  the  farm  close  to  it ;  and,  with 
the  approach  of  this  battalion  on  his  right  flank  and  of  the 
two  battalions  of  Guards  on  his  left,  the  enemy  retired. 
Thus,  before  2  P.M.  the  passage  of  the  Petit  Morin  had  been 
forced  at  the  eastern  extremity  of  the  line ;  and  the 
Cavalry  Division  was  able  to  cross  the  valley  and  push 
northward.  The  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  pursued  the  hostile 
guns  a  short  distance,  taking  some  prisoners  and  inflicting 
appreciable  losses  ;  whilst  the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade,  reliev- 
ing it  at  3.30  P.M.,  struck  the  flank  of  a  German  column  seen 
on  its  left  retiring  northward  from  Orly  and  did  some 
execution  with  its  guns. 

The  I.  Corps  was  now  free  to  send  help  further  to  the 
west ;  and  not  before  it  was  needed.  The  8th  Infantry 
Brigade1  had  come  up  to  the  support  of  the  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade  about  Gibraltar  between  9  and  10  A.M.,  but  could 
make  no  progress.  The  enemy  was  entrenched  on  the 
slopes  on  the  north  side  of  the  Petit  Morin  about  half  a  mile 
west  of  Orly,  and  his  machine  guns  were  so  cunningly  hidden 
that  field  guns  could  not  find  them.  It  was  noon  before 
howitzers  could  be  brought  up,  but  even  then  the  machine 
guns  could  not  be  located,  and  they  rendered  a  frontal 
attack  impossible.  Further  west  the  13th  Infantry  Brigade 
and  the  121st  Battery  had  joined  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade 
between  8  and  9  A.M.  ;  and  two  battalions  were  deployed 
for  attack  on  St.  Cyr.  But  the  fire  from  the  enemy's  con- 
cealed batteries  was  exceedingly  trying,  and  little  or  no 
progress  was  made.  Soon  after  9  A.M.,  therefore,  the  14th 
Infantry  Brigade,  which  was  halted  at  Doue,  was  sent  for- 

1  Only  about  two  thousand  strong  in  spite  of  "  first  reinforcements,"  as 
a  result  of  the  heavy  losses  of  the  2/Royal  Irish  and  4/Middlesex  at  Mons, 
and  of  the  I/Gordons  at  Le  Cateau. 



ward  to  the  attack  of  St.  Ouen,  a  mile  east  of  St.  Cyr. 
The  Duke  of  Cornwall's  L.I.  and  the  East  Surreys  led  the 
way,  advancing  in  open  formation  for  two  miles  under 
shrapnel  fire  till  they  reached  the  valley  and  plunged  into 
the  dense  wood  that  shrouded  the  descent  to  the  river.  So 
steep  was  the  declivity  and  so  thickly  tangled  the  under- 
growth, that  the  Cornishmen,  though  little  opposed,  were 
obliged  to  work  down  to  the  water  man  by  man  and  re-form 
by  the  railway  at  the  foot  of  the  slope.  They  found  before 
them  two  seemingly  impassable  streams,  traversed  by  a 
single  continuous  bridge  which  was  swept  by  two  machine 
guns.  After  a  time,  however,  a  foot-bridge  was  found  over 
one  stream  and  a  ford  through  the  other ;  and  thus  the 
battalion  was  able  gradually  to  effect  its  passage.  The 
East  Surreys  crossed  just  as  slowly  by  means  of  a  single 
boat ;  but  Lieut. -Colonel  Longley  used  the  time  thus 
afforded  to  discover  the  exact  position  of  the  enemy's 
trenches  and  then  attacked  them  in  flank,  whilst  the  Duke 
of  Cornwall's  cleared  St.  Ouen  and  occupied  the  village  of 
St.  Cyr. 

It  was  now  nearly  3  P.M.  The  river  had  been  crossed 
on  both  sides  of  Orly  (2J  miles  east  of  St.  Cyr),  and  the 
enemy's  position  at  that  place  became  perilous.  In  the 
2nd  Division,  the  Oxfordshire  and  Buckinghamshire  Light 
Infantry  and  the  Connaught  Rangers  of  the  5th  Infantry 
Brigade  turned  westward  from  Becherelle  after  they  had 
crossed  the  Petit  Morin,  and  approached  Orly  from  the  east. 
The  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  had  pushed  on  3  miles  from 
the  river  to  the  cross  roads  about  Belle  Idee  on  the  Mont- 
mirail — La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  main  road,  almost  behind 
the  German  position.  The  60th  Howitzer  Battery  now 
began  to  search  the  woods  with  high-explosive  shell,  with 
the  result  that  German  cavalry  and  infantry  soon  emerged 
from  their  cover  within  close  range  of  the  Guards  at  La 
Belle  Idee  and  were  heavily  punished ;  the  few  that 
remained  in  the  wood  were  enveloped  by  the  3/Coldstream 
and  Irish  Guards  and  shot  down  or  captured.  Such  fugi- 
tives as  made  their  escape  were  pursued  so  vigorously  by 
the  shells  of  the  British  guns  that  the  infantry  could  not 
follow  up  its  success.  Meanwhile  the  8th  Infantry  Brigade 
began  again  to  press  upon  Orly  itself  from  the  south,  and 
the  9th  Infantry  Brigade  from  the  east ;  and  about  4  P.M. 
the  village  was  captured  and  one  hundred  and  fifty  prisoners1 
with  it.  Simultaneously,  the  Cyclist  Company  of  the  5th 

1  Guard  Schiitzen  and  men  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Division. 


Division  reached  the  main  road,  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre —  8  Sept. 
Montmirail,  3  miles  west  of  the  point  where  the  4th  1914- 
(Guards)  Brigade  had  struck  it,  and  came  upon  the  flank  of 
two  hundred  German  Guard  Schutzen,  and  after  five  minutes' 
fighting  compelled  them  to  lay  down  their  arms.  Unfor- 
tunately, a  battery  of  the  3rd  Division  which  had  been 
pushed  forward  to  north  of  Orly,  peppered  both  captors  and 
captured  so  energetically  with  shrapnel  that  all  but  seventy 
of  the  prisoners  were  able  to  escape.  Both  divisions  how- 
ever of  the  II.  Corps  pressed  northward  from  Orly  and 
St.  Ouen  as  soon  as  they  could,  and  by  dusk  the  head 
of  the  3rd  Division  was  at  Les  Feucheres  (1J  miles  east 
of  Rougeville),  and  the  head  of  the  5th  Division  at 
Rougeville,  where  they  were  within  less  than  a  mile  of  the 

The  reaction  of  these  operations  on  the  right  made 
itself  felt  about  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  between  3  and  4  P.M. 
The  guns  of  the  4th  Division  had  come  up  about  noon,  and 
had  shelled  the  bridges  at  La  Ferte  and  the  ground  in  front 
of  Jouarre  very  heavily.1  The  108th  Heavy  Battery  of 
the  5th  Division,  unlimbering  at  Doue  (4J  miles  S.S.E.  of 
Jouarre)  and  firing  by  the  map,  silenced  one  troublesome 
battery  near  Jouarre  and  another  some  distance  further 
east.  At  1  P.M.  the  German  fire  ceased  opposite  to  the  4th 
Division  ;  and  soon  after  2  P.M.  orders  were  issued  for  the 
llth  and  19th  Infantry  Brigades  to  advance  on  the  bridge 
at  La  Ferte"  over  the  Petit  Morin,  and  for  the  12th  Infantry 
Brigade  to  move  upon  that  of  Courcelles  (1  mile  north-east 
of  Jouarre)  about  a  mile  and  a  half  to  the  eastward. 
Courcelles  was  quickly  evacuated  by  the  enemy  at  the 
approach  of  the  2/Essex  and  2/Inniskilling  Fusiliers,  who 
thereupon  moved  on  to  La  Ferte,  where  both  bridges  were 
found  to  have  been  blown  up.  These  battalions  were 
joined  there  by  the  King's  Own,  who  had  already  cleared 
Jouarre,  and  by  some  of  the  Welch  Fusiliers.  The  Germans 
firing  from  the  houses  made  some  show  of  resistance,  but 
by  dark  the  portion  of  the  town  that  lies  south  of  the  Marne 
had  been  cleared  of  the  enemy  and  was  in  full  occupation 
of  the  British. 

The  day's  operations  now  practically  came  to  an  end. 
Troops  of  the  I.  Corps  did  indeed  advance  as  far  as  Basse- 
velle,  midway  between  the  Petit  Morin  and  the  Marne  ;  but 
at  6  P.M.  a  very  sultry  day  ended  in  a  violent  thunderstorm 

1  La  Fert6  sous  Jouarre  lies  in  the  valley,  on  the  Marne  ;   Jouarre  is 
on  the  height  above  it,  on  the  south  side  of  the  valley. 

286  THE  MARNE 

with  such  torrents  of  rain  as  made  it  difficult  either  to  see 
or  to  move.  Nearly  the  whole  of  the  8th  had  been  spent 
in  forcing  the  passage  of  the  Petit  Morin.  The  ground  was 
ideally  suited  to  a  rear-guard  action,  and  the  enemy's 
positions  were  well  chosen,  and  most  skilfully  and  gallantly 
defended.  It  is  difficult  to  say  precisely  what  number  of 
Germans  held  the  river ;  but  it  is  certain  that  there  was 
all  of  von  Richthofen's  Cavalry  Corps,  and  at  least  half  of 
von  der  Marwitz's,  including  seven  or  more  infantry  bat- 
talions amply  supplied  with  machine  guns,  and  a  consider- 
able force  of  artillery.1  The  total  loss  of  the  British 
was  under  six  hundred  killed  and  wounded,  against  which 
were  to  be  set  some  five  hundred  Germans  captured, 
at  least  the  same  number  killed  and  wounded,  and 
about  a  dozen  machine  guns  taken  in  the  trenches  by  the 

Sketch  6.        The  troops  halted  for  the  night,  all  south  of  the  Marne, 

Map  25.    in  the  following  positions  : — 

Cavalry  Division         *        .        .  Replonges. 

I.  Corps        .        .        .        .        .  Basse velle,     Hondevillers     (2J 

miles  south  of  last  named), 

II.  Corps Les     Feucheres,      Rougeville, 

Charnesseuil  (1J  miles  west 
of  Bussieres),  Orly. 

1  The  latest  account,  Baumgarten-Crusius's  '*  Deutsche  Heerfiihrung 
im  Marnefeldzug,  1914,"  p.  118,  states  :  "  On  8th  September  the  line  of 
44  the  Petit  Morin  was  to  be  held.     This  was  a  failure  (misslang).     The 

'  9th  Cavalry  Division  was  pulled  out  early  to  act  as  battle-cavalry 
'  behind  the  centre  of  the  Ourcq  front,  where  a  break-through  was 
4  apparently  threatening.  The  2nd  Cavalry  Division  together  with  rear- 
4  guard  battalions  of  the  11.  and  111.  Corps  managed  to  bar  the  Marne 
'  for  a  little  time  longer.  But  further  to  the  east  the  screen  was  torn 
*  aside.  The  /.  Cavalry  Corps  about  midday  was  thrown  back  from 
'  the  Petit  Morin  over  the  Dollau  (which  enters  the  Marne  from 
4  the  south  just  above  Chezy)  with  considerable  loss.  The  attempt 
'  to  stand  there  failed.  The  5th  Cavalry  Division  withdrew  north- 
'  westwards  over  the  Marne  (at  Nanteuil,  according  to  the  sketch),  the 
"  Guard  Cavalry  Division  eastward  on  Cond6  (7  miles  south-east  of  Chateau 
"  Thierry),  rear  guards  on  the  Dollau.  ...  A  gap  of  21  miles  was  thus 
44  occasioned  between  the  First  and  Second  Armies.  To  close  it  the 
"  First  Army  detailed  Kraewel's  brigade,  and  the  9th  Cavalry  Division 
44  was  sent  back  to  General  yon  der  Marwitz." 

A  few  lines  lower  down  it  is  mentioned  that  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division 
had  four  Jager  battalions. 

2  Vogel   speaks   of   4'  the    celebrated   heavy-in-losses    and   important 
fight  at  Orly."      The  Guard  and  5th  Cavalry  Divisions  were  engaged ; 
44  many  of  the  companies  of  the  Guard  Jager  and  Schutzen  came  out  of 
action  with  only  45  men." 


III.  Corps Grand  Glairet  (1  mile  west  of  8  Sept. 

3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  Jouarre),   Venteuil  Chateau   1914. 

(1  mile   south   of  La   Ferte 
sous  Jouarre),  Signy  Signets. 

5th  Cavalry  Brigade  .        .        .  Between  Gibraltar  and  Rebais. 

The  news  that  came  in  at  nightfall  from  the  French  Maps  4 
Armies  on  the  right  and  left  was  less  satisfactory  than  on  &  25» 
the  7th.  To  the  eastward  the  French  Fifth  Army  had  made 
good  progress  and  had  encountered  no  very  serious  opposi- 
tion. On  its  extreme  left  the  XVIII.  Corps  had  crossed  the 
Petit  Morin  to  L'Epine  aux  Bois  (4  miles  west  of  Mont- 
mirail),  and  the  rest  of  the  Army  was  extended  from  Mont- 
mirail  eastward  to  Champaubert,  beyond  which  General 
Foch's  Ninth  Army  stretched  from  St.  Prix  (3  miles  south 
of  Champaubert)  to  La  Fere  Champenoise.  To  the  west- 
ward the  Germans,  having  been  strongly  reinforced  by 
the  troops  withdrawn  by  von  Kluck  from  the  south,  were 
offering  a  determined  resistance  to  the  French  on  the 
Ourcq  ;  and  General  Maunoury,  in  spite  of  all  efforts,  had 
failed  to  gain  ground.  Indeed,  his  centre  had  actually  been 
forced  back,  and  he  had  been  obliged  to  recall  the  French 
8th  Division,  which  should  have  linked  his  right  to  the 
British  Army,  from  the  east  to  the  west  bank  of  the  Ourcq. 
From  this  information  it  became  evident  that  the  quicker 
the  advance  of  the  British  upon  the  left  flank  and  rear  of 
von  Kluck,  the  speedier  would  be  General  Maunoury 's 
deliverance,  and  the  more  telling  the  damage  inflicted  upon 
the  Germans.1 

The  Special  Instruction  No.  19,  issued  by  General  Joffre 
at  8.7  P.M.  on  the  8th  September,  drew  attention  to  the  fact 
that  the  right  wing  of  the  German  Army  was  now  divided 
into  two  groups,  connected  only  by  some  cavalry  divisions, 
supported,  in  front  of  the  British  troops,  by  detachments  of 
all  arms.  It  was  therefore  important  to  defeat  the  German 
extreme  right  before  it  could  be  reinforced  by  other  formations 
released  by  the  fall  of  Maubeuge.  This  task  was  confided 
to  the  Sixth  Army  and  the  British.  The  Sixth  Army  was 
to  hold  on  to  the  troops  opposing  it  on  the  right  bank  of 
the  Ourcq,  whijst  the  British  forces  crossing  the  Marne 
between  Nogent  1'Artaud  and  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  were 
to  advance  against  the  left  and  rear  of  the  enemy  on  the 
Ourcq  ;  the  Fifth  Army  was  to  cover  the  right  flank  of  the 
British  Army  by  sending  a  strong  detachment  against 
Chateau  Thierry — Azy. 

1  The  German  account  of  the  day's  fighting  will  be  found  on  p.  296. 

288  THE  MARNE 


Maps  4,  The  orders  issued  by  the  British  Commander-in-Chief 
25  &  26.  on  ^e  evening  of  the  8th  September  directed  the  Army  to 
continue  its  advance  northward  at  5  A.M.,  attacking  the 
enemy  rear  guards  wherever  met,  the  cavalry  maintaining 
touch  with  the  French  Armies  to  right  and  left,  as  before.1 
It  had  been  expected  that  the  Germans  would  offer  stubborn 
resistance  on  the  line  of  the  Marne,  which,  with  its  steep 
wooded  sides,  presented  very  favourable  ground  for  a  rear- 
guard action  ;  but  it  was  already  tolerably  evident  from 
the  reports  of  the  Flying  Corps  on  the  8th  that  this  was  not 
their  intention.  Their  main  bodies  were  by  evening  in 
bivouac  between  Nanteuil  (5  miles  north-east  of  La  Ferte 
sous  Jouarre)  and  Chateau  Thierry,  and  there  were  signs 
during  the  afternoon  of  troops  moving  hastily  northward 
from  this  area.  Not  even  were  the  bridges  destroyed,  except 
those  of  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre,  Sammeron  (2  miles  west 
of  La  Ferte),  and  Changis  (3  miles  west  of  Sammeron).  The 
llth  Hussars,  who  had  reconnoitred  towards  the  bridge  over 
the  Marne  at  Charly  and  found  it  occupied  by  the  enemy 
on  the  evening  of  the  8th,  ascertained  that  the  Germans 
had  retired  during  the  night  leaving  the  passage  clear. 


AND    THE    I.    CORPS 

Maps  4  Early  on  the  9th  September  therefore  the  1st  Cavalry 
&  26.  Brigade  was  pushed  forward  on  Nogent  and  Charly,  and  by 
5.30  A.M.  it  was  in  possession  of  both  bridges,  whilst  the 
4th  Cavalry  Brigade  seized  that  at  Azy  further  to  the  east 
and  3  miles  below  Chateau  Thierry.  The  two  brigades 
then  moved  about  three  miles  northward  from  Nogent  to 
Mont  de  Bonneil  to  cover  the  passage  of  the  infantry.  By 
7.30  A.M.  the  Queen's,  the  leading  battalion  of  the  3rd 
Infantry  Brigade,  the  advanced  guard  of  the  1st  Division, 
had  passed  the  Marne  at  Nogent  and  was  crowning  the 
heights  north  of  the  river.  The  6th  Infantry  Brigade,  with 
the  XXXIV.  Brigade  R.F.A.,  the  advanced  guard  of  the 
2nd  Division,  on  reaching  Charly  found  a  barricade  on  the 
bridge  which  took  three-quarters  of  an  hour  to  remove. 
By  8.15  A.M.  however  it  also  had  secured  the  high  ground 
north  of  the  river  without  fighting.  By  10.15  A.M.  the  3rd 

1  Appendix  41 . 


Infantry   Brigade   had   pushed   on   to   Beaurepaire   Farm  9  Sept. 
(2J    miles    north    of    Charly)    without    seeing    a    sign    of  1914- 
the  enemy.     The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  had  already  made 
good  the  next  ridge   to  the  north,    and  the  3rd  Infantry 
Brigade  had  advanced  about  another  mile  to  Les  Aulnois 
Bontemps,  when  the  advanced  guards  received  orders  to 
stand  fast.     The  Flying  Corps  had  reported  large  hostile 
forces  halted  north  of  Chateau  Thierry  and  others  moving 
westward  upon  Domptin,  just  west  of  the  position  of  the 
3rd  Infantry  Brigade.1 

The  whole  of  the  I.  Corps  was  therefore  ordered  to  halt 
until  the  situation  could  be  cleared  up  ;  and  such  of  the 
artillery  of  the  2nd  Division  as  had  not  crossed  the  Marne 
was  directed  to  remain  in  observation  on  the  south  bank  of 
the  river,  and  the  5th  Infantry  Brigade  to  entrench  there. 
The  rest  of  the  Cavalry  Division  joined  the  1st  Cavalry 
Brigade  to  the  left  front  of  the  3rd  Infantry  Brigade  early 
in  the  afternoon,  and  a  few  men  of  the  German  rear  parties 
were  cut  off  and  captured.  The  remainder  of  the  1st 
Division  crossed  the  river  at  Nogent,  and  in  due  time  the 
2nd  Division  also,  at  Charly.  But  no  further  advance  was 
made  by  the  I.  Corps  until  3  P.M.,  when  both  divisions 
moved  forward  until  their  heads  reached  the  vicinity  of 
the  Chateau  Thierry — Montreuil  road  at  Le  Thiolet  and 
Coupru  respectively.  They  then  halted  and  billeted  in 
depth  along  their  roads  of  advance. 


The  II.  Corps  found  the  Marne  bridges  at  Nanteuil  and  Maps  4 
Saacy  intact ;  the  3rd  Division  crossed  by  the  former,  the  &  26> 
5th  Division  by  the  latter.  Before  9  A.M.  the  vanguards  of 
both  divisions  had  established  themselves  on  the  heights 
of  the  northern  bank,  and  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade,  which 
with  a  brigade  of  artillery  formed  the  advanced  guard  of 
the  3rd  Division,  at  once  sent  forward  two  battalions  to 
Bezu  les  Guery,  two  and  a  half  miles  from  the  river.  The 
vanguard  (the  Fifth  Fusiliers),  pushing  on  for  another 
mile  to  Ventelet  Farm,  found  the  ridge  before  it  clear  of 
the  enemy.  By  10.30  A.M.  Brigadier-General  Shaw  had 
fixed  his  headquarters  at  Bezu  ;  and  all  seemed  to  be 

1  From  an  article  in  the  "  Militar  Wochenblatt,"  73/1920,  it  would 
appear  that  the  troops  near  Chateau  Thierry  were  the  main  body  of  the 
17th  Division,  and  those  moving  west  the  5th  Cavalry  Division,  which  on 
the  9th  September  was  at  Marigny,  7  miles  west  of  Chateau  Thierry. 
VOL.  I 

290  THE  MARNE 

going  well.  On  the  left  of  the  3rd  Division  also  everything 
appeared  at  the  outset  to  promise  an  easy  advance  for  the 
5th  Division  to  Montreuil  (2  miles  north-west  of  Bezu,  on 
the  Chateau  Thierry — La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  main  road),  at 
which  point  it  would  cut  off  the  Germans  who  were  defend- 
ing the  passage  of  the  Marne  about  La  Ferte.  No  sooner, 
however,  did  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade  show  itself  about 
La  Limon  (1  mile  north  of  Saacy)  than  it  was  greeted  by 
heavy  shell  fire  from  concealed  batteries  at  various  points. 
The  Germans  were  using  against  the  British  the  tactics  of 
L  Battery  and  the  119th  Battery  at  Elouges.  Harassed 
by  bursting  shells  on  front  and  flank,  the  14th  Infantry 
Brigade,  with  the  65th  (Howitzer)  Battery  and  the  80th 
Battery,  began  its  advance  upon  Montreuil.  The  direct 
road  from  Saacy  along  the  bank  of  the  northward  bend  of 
the  Marne,  via  Mery,  being  too  much  exposed  to  the  German 
fire,  the  brigade  moved  through  the  woods  half  a  mile  to  the 
east,  while  the  batteries  unlimbered  south  of  La  Limon. 
The  growth  of  small  trees  was  so  dense  that  it  was  ex- 
tremely difficult  for  the  men  to  keep  touch  and  maintain 
direction,  and  consequently  progress  was  slow.  In  fact  the 
14th  Infantry  Brigade  was  swallowed  up  by  the  woods  for 
more  than  an  hour. 

Meanwhile  about  11  A.M.  Brigadier-General  Shaw  at 
Bezu,  to  the  east  of  this  attack,  observing  that  the  British 
batteries  were  unable  to  silence  the  German  guns  opposing 
the  5th  Division,  sent  two  companies  of  the  Lincolnshire  to 
work  through  the  woods  west  of  Bezu  and  try  to  capture  the 
German  guns  upon  Pisseloup  Ridge  (1  mile  west  of  Bezu). 
The  Lincolnshire  crept  up  unseen  to  within  a  hundred  and 
fifty  yards  of  them,  and  in  a  few  minutes  shot  down  the 
German  gunners  and  their  escort  literally  almost  to  a  man. 
Dashing  out  of  the  thicket  to  secure  the  guns,  however, 
they  were  fired  upon  by  the  65th  (Howitzer)  Battery,  and 
compelled  again  to  seek  cover,  with  a  loss  of  four  officers 
and  some  thirty  men  killed  or  wounded  ;  and  the  guns 
were  not  captured  until  next  morning.  This  unfortunate 
mistake  arose  from  the  65th  believing  that  the.  German 
battery  had  been  silenced  by  some  other  British  artillery, 
and  that  the  men  of  the  Lincolnshire  were  German  gunners 
returning  to  their  abandoned  guns. 

Just  about  this  time — 11.30  A.M. — the  Cornwall  L.I.  at 
the  head  of  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade  at  last  emerged  from 
the  woods,  and  were  fired  upon  by  German  infantry  in 
position  to  the  south  of  Montreuil.  Thereupon,  the  brigade 


was  ordered  to  attack  towards  the  north,  on  a  front  of  two  9  Sept. 
battalions,  with  the  left  flank  on  the  road  from  Mery  to  1914> 
Montreuil ;  while  the  15th  Infantry  Brigade  was  directed 
by  5th  Division  Headquarters  to  move  round  further  to  the 
east,  by  Bezu  and  Bois  des  Essertis  (J  mile  north-west  of 
Bezu),  and  attack  Hill  189  (immediately  to  south-east  of 
Montreuil)  from  the  flank.  The  14th  Infantry  Brigade 
meanwhile  continued  its  advance,  always  slowly,  owing  to 
the  density  of  the  woods  ;  and,  on  the  left,  the  leading 
companies  of  the  Duke  of  Cornwall's  losing  touch  of  their 
supports,  came  under  heavy  fire  from  infantry  entrenched 
on  Hill  189  and  from  two  batteries,  which  were  still  un- 
silenced,  at  La  Sablonniere  and  Chamoust  (south-west  and 
north  of  Montreuil,  respectively).  Under  this  crossfire  of 
artillery,  the  Cornishmen,  after  struggling  for  a  time  to 
work  forward,  were  compelled  to  fall  back,  leaving  a  few 
prisoners  behind  them  ;  and  the  14th  Infantry  Brigade  was 
thus  brought  to  a  dead  stop.  The  Germans  at  2  P.M.  even 
launched  a  counter-attack  against  the  left  of  its  line,  but  the 
effort  was  at  once  smothered  by  the  British  shrapnel.  After 
more  than  an  hour  of  deadlock,  the  Norfolks  and  Dorsets 
of  the  15th  Infantry  Brigade  came  up  between  3  and  4  P.M. 
to  the  western  edge  of  the  Bois  des  Essertis,  on  the  flank  of 
Hill  189,  where  they  were  abruptly  checked  by  a  violent 
fire  from  rifles  and  machine  guns  and  from  the  battery  at 
La  Sablonniere.  Unable  to  make  progress,  they  stood  fast, 
and  engaged  in  a  short-range  fight  with  the  German  in- 
fantry, which  was  entrenched  within  a  hundred  and  twenty 
yards  of  them.  Forty-seven  dead  Germans  were  found 
next  day  in  the  trenches  opposite  to  the  Dorsets  ;  but  the 
15th  Infantry  Brigade  needed  the  support  of  artillery,  and 
the  British  batteries  could  find  no  positions  from  which  to 
give  it.  Some  time  before — about  3  P.M. — two  battalions 
of  the  15th  Infantry  Brigade  had  been  ordered  to  the  left 
via  Moitiebard  (2  miles  south  of  Montreuil)  to  discover 
and,  if  possible,  destroy  the  battery  at  Chamoust ;  but  it 
was  not  until  6  P.M.  that  an  officer  of  artillery,  by  a  personal 
reconnaissance,  at  last  found  the  exact  position  of  the 
German  guns.  They  were  silenced  within  ten  minutes  by 
the  37th  (Howitzer)  Battery  ;  but  by  that  time  the  light 
was  waning,  and  the  best  of  the  day  was  gone.1 

1  The  enemy  at  Montreuil  was  at  first  Kraewel's  Composite  Brigade, 
hastily  formed  on  the  evening  of  the  8th  of  two  infantry  regiments  and  six 
batteries  of  artillery  from  the  two  divisions  of  the  IX.  Corps.  General 
Kraewel's  instructions  were  to  hold  the  line  of  the  Marne  from  Nogent 
to  La  Ferte  (actually  the  British  front)  and  destroy  the  bridges  (which 

292  THE  MARNE 

The  3rd  Division,  when  it  found  that  neither  the  I.  Corps 
on  its  right  nor  the  5th  Division  on  its  left,  was  coming  up 
in  line  with  it,  after  helping  the  5th  Division  as  already 
related,  remained  from  the  morning  onwards  with  its  head 
at  Ventelet  Farm  on  the  Chateau  Thierry — Montr euil  road. 
Thus,  the  road  marked  the  limit  of  British  progress  in  this 


Maps  4  Further  to  the  west,  the  III.  Corps  was  delayed  by  most 
&26-  effective  opposition.  The  enemy  was  holding  the  right 
bank  of  the  Marne  at  all  likely  points  of  passage,  with 
artillery  near  Caumont  at  the  top  of  the  big  loop  of  the 
river  enfilading  the  western  reach  of  it  nearly  as  far  as  La 
Ferte  sous  Jouarre,  and  with  other  guns  north-west  of  the 
town.  The  only  intact  bridge  was  the  railway  viaduct  half- 
way down  the  above-mentioned  enfiladed  reach  of  the 
river.  The  service  pontoons  and  trestles  at  the  disposal  of 
the  corps  were  insufficient  to  bridge  the  Marne  at  any  point 
in  this  section — for  it  was  from  70  to  90  yards  wide  and  very 
deep — without  the  help  of  additional  material,  and  there 
was  none  to  be  found  ready  for  use  except  at  La  Ferte  sous 

Pursuant  to  General  Pulteney's  orders,  the  llth  and 
12th  Infantry  Brigades  advanced  at  4.45  A.M.  in  two 
columns,  with  the  intention  of  repairing  the  bridges  in 
front  of  them,  and  if  possible  of  crossing  the  river  and 
establishing  a  bridgehead  north  of  La  Ferte'.  They  seized 
the  high  ground  at  Tarterel,  immediately  to  the  east  of  La 
Ferte,  so  that  artillery  could  be  brought  up  to  deal  with 
the  German  guns  and  the  portion  of  the  town  south  of 
the  river.  The  broken  bridges  at  La  Ferte  were,  how- 
ever, found  by  the  llth  Infantry  Brigade  to  be  unapproach- 
able, the  buildings  adjacent  to  them  on  the  northern  bank 

he  did  not  do),  whilst  the  three  cavalry  divisions  held  the  Petit  Morin 
(which  they  had  already  abandoned).  He  slipped  away  at  8  p.m.  on 
the  9th,  leaving  the  guns  of  one  battery  behind  him  ("  Militar  Wochen- 
blatt,"  Nos.  73  and  74  of  1920). 

In  the  course  of  the  fight,  Kraewel's  brigade  "  was  supported  by  the 
"  9th  Cavalry  Division,  which  attacked  towards  Monbertoin,  and  by  the 
"  leading  troops  of  the  Prussian  5th  Division,  which  had  been  sent  by 
"  [First]  Army  Headquarters  to  reinforce  it,  and  had  marched  via  Cocherel." 
(Lieut.-Colonel  Miiller  Loebnitz,  formerly  of  the  Great  General  Staff,  in 
"  Der  Wendepunkt  des  Weltkrieges,"  p.  35.) 

Four  Jdger  battalions  and  "  a  detachment  of  the  3rd  Division  from 
Mary  "  (6  miles  to  the  west  of  Montreuil)  were  also  present  according  to 
Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  207. 


of  the  river  being  full  of  German  snipers  and  machine  guns.  9  Sept. 
Attempts  to  cross  by  boat  further  down  were  also  un-  1914- 
successful.  It  was  extremely  difficult  to  tell  which  Jiouses 
were  occupied,  and  impossible  to  deal  effectively  with  them, 
except  by  howitzer  fire  ;  and  the  greater  part  of  the  fore- 
noon was  occupied  with  dropping  shells  on  the  most  likely 
ones  from  Tarter  el,  and  from  Jouarre,  south  of  La  Ferte. 
Meanwhile,  however,  the  12th  Infantry  Brigade  pushed  two 
battalions  up  the  left  bank  of  the  river  into  the  loop  between 
Chamigny  and  Luzancy,  and  these  succeeded  in  driving 
the  Germans  from  a  weir  to  the  west  of  Luzancy.  Then, 
crossing  the  Marne  by  the  weir,  they  climbed  to  the  road 
that  leads  from  La  Ferte  to  Montreuil,  which  was  the  line 
of  the  German  retreat,  but  reached  it  too  late  to  intercept 
any  German  troops. 

During  this  movement,  shortly  before  noon,  the  British 
infantry  was  withdrawn  from  the  southern  half  of  La  Fert6 
and  the  town  was  heavily  bombarded,  with  the  result  that 
the  Germans  about  2.30  P.M.  abandoned  the  approaches 
to  the  bridges,  which  Royal  Engineer  officers  were  then 
able  to  reconnoitre.  But  it  was  4  P.M.  or  later  before 
any  effectual  repair  work  could  be  begun.  However,  the 
1 /Rifle  Brigade  followed  the  two  battalions  of  the  12th 
Infantry  Brigade  across  the  weir,  and  the  2/Inniskilling 
Fusiliers  crossed  the  river  higher  up  by  the  railway  via- 
duct which  was  still  intact.  They  were  shelled  as  they 
did  so,  but  suffered  no  loss.  The  I/East  Lancashire  and 
the  I/Hampshire  were  ferried  across  in  boats  below  La 
Ferte,  and  this  tedious  operation  on  a  broad  and  rapid 
river  was  not  completed  until  9  P.M.,  by  which  time  the 
Engineers  had  sufficient  barrel  piers,  etc.,  ready  at  site  to 
supplement  the  pontoons  and  begin  the  construction  of  a 
floating  bridge.  When  darkness  fell  on  the  9th,  ten  of  the 
sixteen  battalions  of  the  III.  Corps  were  still  on  the  south 
side  of  the  river :  the  10th  Infantry  Brigade  being  at  Grand  ' 
Mont  Menard  (2  miles  east  of  La  Ferte),  the  King's  Own  (12th 
Brigade)  at  Luzancy,  the  Somerset  Light  Infantry  (llth 
Brigade)  at  Les  Abymes  (just  south  of  La  Ferte)  and  the 
19th  Infantry  Brigade  between  Jouarre  and  Signy  Signets. 

The  positions  of  the  Army  at  the  end  of  the  day  were  as  sketch  ( 
follows,  extending  from  Chateau  Thierry  (exclusive)  through  MaP  20. 
Bezu  and  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  to  Jouarre. 

Cavalry  Division         .        .        .   Lucy  le  Bocage,  Domptin. 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  .        .        .La  Baudiere  (half  a  mile  west 

of  Domptin). 

294  THE  MARNE 

I.  Corps Le  Thiolet,  Mont  de  Bonneil, 

Domptin,  Coupru. 

II.  Corps Bezu,  Crouttes,  Caumont. 

3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  .        •   Grand  Mont  Menard  (south  of 

the  Marne). 

III.  Corps Luzancy,  Grand  Mont  Menard, 

Jouarre,  Chamigny. 

The  left  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  had  reached  the 
northern  edge  of  Chateau  Thierry,  in  line  with  the  British. 
Maps  4  The  9th  September,  though  we  now  know  that  the 
&  26<  advance  of  the  B.E.F.  was  the  decisive  factor  in  influen- 
cing the  Germans  to  abandon  the  field  of  battle,1  seemed 
at  the  time  a  disappointing  day  for  the  British,  and  the 
more  so  since  General  Maunoury,  having  been  hard  pressed 
on  his  left  and  left  flank  throughout  the  8th,  had  asked  for 
a  brisk  attack  against  the  left  flank  and  rear  of  von  Kluck. 
Had  the  entire  British  line  been  able  to  come  up  level 
with  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade  when  it  reached  the  road 
from  Chateau  Thierry  through  Montreuil  to  Lizy  sur  Ourcq 
at  9  A.M.,  great  results  might  have  followed,  for  von  Kluck's 
left  was  well  to  south  of  Lizy.  But  the  I.  and  III.  Corps 
on  either  flank  were  checked  until  late  in  the  day.  Not 
until  5  P.M.,  after  a  hard  day's  fighting,  in  which  he  had 
been  reinforced  by  every  man  that  General  Gallieni  could 
spare  him  from  the  Paris  garrison,  was  General  Maunoury 
able  to  report  that  von  Kluck  was  retiring  north-eastward, 
covering  his  retreat  with  his  heavy  artillery. 

Reports  from  the  Flying  Corps  in  the  evening  confirmed 
General  Maunoury 's  statement  that  the  road  from  Lizy 
sur  Ourcq  north-eastward  to  Coulombs  was  filled  with  one 
continuous  column  of  marching  Germans.2  Everywhere 
else  along  the  great  battle  line  from  Verdun  to  the  Ourcq 
the  same  retrograde  movements  of  the  enemy  were  reported. 
Sketch  5.  The  gigantic  struggle  of  the  6th  to  the  9th  September, 
known  as  the  battle  of  the  Marne,  in  which,  so  far  as  can  be 
ascertained,  49  Allied  divisions,  with  eight  cavalry  divi- 
sions, contended  against  46  German  divisions,  with  seven 
cavalry  divisions,3  was  over,  and  with  it  all  the  hopes  of 
the  rapid  knock-out  blow  with  which  Germany  had  counted 

1  See  p.  303. 

2  It  would  seem  that  this  was  von  Kluck's  5th  Division  retiring  to 
Crouy — Coulombs  to  assist  the  cavalry  and  Kraewel's  Composite  Brigade 
in  stopping  the  British  advance  (see  "  Militar  Wochenblatt,"  12/1920). 

8  Palat,  vi.  p.  464,  says  1,275,000  Germans  against  1,125,000  Allies. 
The  Germans  lost  38,000  prisoners  and  160  guns. 


on  winning  the  war  against  her  unprepared  opponents.  9  Sept. 
Tactically  it  was  not  fought  to  a  finish,  but  strategically  its   1914- 
results  were  far-reaching,  so  that  it  must  be  regarded  as  one 
of  the  decisive  battles  of  the  world.1     Its  general  result  is 
well   summarized   in   a   proclamation   issued   by   General 
Franchet  d'Esperey  on  the  evening  of  the  9th  September 
to  the  Fifth  Army  : 

"  Held  on  his  flanks,  his  centre  broken,  the  enemy  is 
"  now  retreating  towards  the  east  and  north  by  forced 
"  marches." 

In  the  area  between  Verdun  and  Paris  the  Armies  of 
Generals  Sarrail  and  de  Langle  de  Gary  on  the  right  had  held 
their  ground  against  the  German  Fifth,  Fourth  and  part  of 
the  Third  Armies,  just  as  Maunoury  had  against  the  First 
Army  ;  in  the  centre,  the  right  of  General  Foch's  Army  had 
been  driven  back  by  the  left  of  the  German  Second  Army 
and  the  right  of  the  Third  (he  was  about  to  restore  the  situa- 
tion by  a  division  transferred  from  his  left  to  his  right,  when 
the  German  retreat  made  this  unnecessary) ;  but  General 
Franchet  d'Esperey,  and  with  him  Foch's  left,  to  which  he 
had  lent  the  X.  Corps,  had  been  entirely  successful,  and 
after  severe  fighting  had  hurled  back  the  western  wing  of 
von  Billow's  Army,  which  first  faced  south-west  and  west 
instead  of  south,  and  then  retreated.2 

On  Franchet  d'Esperey's  left,  the  B.E.F.  had  driven 
back  a  strong  screen  under  General  von  der  Marwitz,  a 
body  of  troops  little  inferior  in  numbers  to  itself,  composed 
of  four  cavalry  divisions  (including  at  least  eight  J tiger 
battalions),  the  5th  Division,  a  composite  brigade  of  the 
IX.  Corps,  rear  guards  of  the  //.  and  IV.  Corps,  and  a 
detachment  of  the  ///.  Corps.3  In  ground  eminently  ad- 
vantageous to  the  defence,  it  had  forced  the  passage  of 
the  Marne  and  other  rivers,  and  had  not  only  interposed 
itself  between  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies,  but 

1  Falkenhayn  (p.   1)  tells  us  that  the  removal  of  von  Moltke  from 
the  post  of  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  which  followed  (see  p.  365,  below),  was 
concealed  so  that  the  change  of  leadership  should  not  give  the  enemy 
propaganda  "  further  ostensible  proof  of  the  completeness  of  the  victory 
obtained  on  the  Marne." 

2  It  may  be  added  that  the  German  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies,  opposed 
to  Generals  Dubail  and  de  Castelnau  in  Lorraine,  were  also  in  difficulties. 
Von  Moltke,  according  to  Foerster  (p.  34)  wrote  in  a  memorandum  : 
"  The  Seventh  Army,  just  as  little  as  the  Sixth,  was  unable  to  advance 
"  to  the  Moselle  in  spite  of  a  long  and  heavy  struggle.  .  .  .  Both  Armies 
"  reported  definitely  that  the  enemy  opposite  them  always  had  superiority 
"  in  numbers." 

3  All  these  formations  are  definitely  mentioned  in  different  German 

296  THE  MARNE 

whilst  the  former  was  fully  engaged  in  front  with  Maun- 
oury's  Army,  had  turned  its  left  flank.  The  Germans  had 
no  choice,  as  von  Kluck's  Chief  of  Staff  admits,1  except 
between  complete  disaster  to  their  right  wing  and  retreat, 
in  order  to  make  good  the  25  miles  gap  in  their  line  of  battle. 
This  gap  was  certainly  first  created  by  their  own  action, 
but  it  was  widened  and  exploited  by  the  French  Fifth  Army 
and  the  B.E.F. 

The  advance  of  the  British  has  been  adversely  com- 
mented upon  as  slow  and  hesitating  by  several  French 
writers.2  It  has  been  pointed  out  3  that  owing  to  the  delay 
in  General  Joffre's  order  reaching  Sir  John  French,  the 
B.E.F.  retired  on  the  5th,  instead  of  advancing,  and  there- 
fore started  two  marches  behind  where  the  French  expected 
it  to  be  on  the  morning  of  the  6th.  The  average  advance 
on  the  6th  was  eleven  miles  ;  on  the  7th  nine,  and  included 
crossing  the  Grand  Morin  ;  on  the  8th,  ten,  and  included 
crossing  the  Petit  Morin  ;  and  on  the  9th,  seven,  and 
included  crossing  the  Marne.  In  view  of  the  previous 
labours  of  the  B.E.F.,  the  difficulties  of  the  ground,  and 
the  opposition  of  the  enemy,  no  more  could  be  expected.4 

As  will  be  seen  from  the  German  account  of  the  battle 
of  the  Marne,  the  advance  of  the  British  Expeditionary 
Force  was  the  main  factor  in  determining  the  German 
Second  Army  to  abandon  the  struggle.5 


Sketch  5.        Without  knowledge  of  what  happened  on  the  German 

Maps  4,    side,  the  end  of  the  battle  of  the  Marne  is  something  of  an 

25'&3264'  erngma"     Although  the  information  available  is  not  quite 

complete,  and  two  of  the  officers  principally  concerned  in 

the   decision   to  retreat — Generaloberst   von   Moltke   and 

Oberst  Hentsch — are  dead,  the  three  Army  commanders 

of  the  right  wing — von  Kluck,  von  Billow  and  von  Hausen 

— and  von  Kuhl  (von  Kluck's  Chief  of  the  Staff)  have 

written  their  versions ;  and  Generalmajor  von  Baumgarten- 

1  See  p.  300. 

2  E.g.  General  Palat.     He  adds,  however,  "  It  seems  likely  that  their 
"  confidence  in  themselves  and  particularly  in  us,  had  suffered  in  the 
"  first  encounters,  which  were  so  little  encouraging  "  (vol.  vi.  p.  248). 

3  See  p.  272. 

4  Cf.  von  Kluck's  ten-mile  advance  against  the  British  rear  guards 
on  the  1st  September,  when  no  line  of  defence  interposed,  p.  247. 

6  See  p.  303. 


Crusius   has   compiled    a    lengthy   account    from    official  5  Sept. 
sources,    containing   operation   orders   and   extracts   from  1914- 
the  war  diaries,  and  more  recently  has  published  extracts 
from  a  statement  written  by  Hentsch,  which  practically 
tell  the  whole  story.1     The  lengthy  German  apologia  must 
necessarily  be  given  here  in  a  very  condensed  form. 

On  the  evening  of  the  5th  September,  the  German  First 
Army  had  four  corps  and  two  cavalry  divisions  south  of  Map  22. 
the  Marne,  along  the  Grand  Morin,  and  a  flank  guard  of  one 
corps  and  one  cavalry  division  north  of  the  Marne  near 
Meaux,  facing  west.  Part  of  the  latter  force,  advancing  to 
clear  up  the  situation,  had  come  in  contact  with  General 
Maunoury's  troops  during  the  afternoon.  At  10  P.M.  von 
Kluck  gave  the  following  orders  preparatory  to  getting  into 
position  between  the  Marne  and  Oise  to  face  Paris.  They 
were  to  take  effect  at  5  A.M.  next  day.  Whilst  his  left  corps, 
the  IX.,  and  the  flank  guard  stood  fast,  the  other  three 
corps  were  to  face  about,  and  begin  wheeling  to  the  right 
on  the  IX.  Corps.  Very  full  directions  were  given  as 
regards  transport,  which  was  to  be  got  clear  at  once  ;  and 
the  withdrawal  was  to  be  covered  by  the  2nd  and  9th 
Cavalry  Divisions  and  weak  rear  guards  of  the  //.  and  IV. 
Corps  on  the  Grand  Morin.  In  detail,  the  ///.  Corps  was  to 
march  to  La  Ferte  Gaucher,  the  IV.  to  Doue  and  the  //. 
in  two  columns  to  Isles  les  Meldeuses  and  Germigny,  in  the 
loop  south  of  the  Marne,  north-east  of  Meaux. 

On  receipt  during  the  night  of  the  information  that  the 
IV.  Reserve  Corps  had  been  in  action  with  strong  French  Map  23. 
forces,  instructions  were  sent  to  General  von  Linsingen, 
commanding  the  //.  Corps,  to  start  as  soon  as  possible  to 
its  assistance,  and  his  two  divisions  crossed  the  Marne 
at  Vareddes  and  the  Ourcq  at  Lizy,  respectively,  and  co- 
operated with  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  on  the  6th.  During 
the  day,  the  IV.  Corps  also,  instead  of  halting  at  Doue,  was 
moved  back  over  the  Marne  north  of  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre, 
and  at  10.30  P.M.  was  ordered  to  make  a  night  march  to  the 
assistance  of  the  right  wing.  Thus  by  the  morning  of  the 
7th,  the  //.,  IV.  and  IV.  Reserve  Corps  were  engaged  against 
Maunoury,  but  the  ///.  and  IX.  Corps  were  still  south  of 
the  Marne. 

During  the  6th  September  the  rear  guards  of  the  //. 
and  IV.  Corps,  and  the  2nd  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions  were 

1  Since  the  above  was  written,  Hentsch' s  statement  and  other  docu- 
ments and  evidence  in  connection  with  the  case  have  been  published  in 
"Die  Sendung  des  Oberstleutnants  Hentsch"  (Berlin,  Mittler). 

298  THE  MARNE 

in  action  against  the  British.  The  ///.  and  IX.  Corps  were 
attacked  by  the  French  Fifth  Army,  and  the  IX.  was  only 
extricated  from  envelopment  by  the  intervention  of  the 
Second  Army,  under  whose  orders  von  Kluck  had  tempor- 
arily placed  these  two  corps.  Meanwhile,  the  Second  Army, 
in  accordance  with  O.H.L.  instructions,  was  wheeling  gradu- 
ally to  the  right,  so  as  to  face  Paris  on  the  line  Montmirail— 
Marigny  le  Grand  ;  its  left  thus  came  into  collision  with 
General  Foch's  Ninth  Army. 

By  the  morning  of  the  7th  von  Kluck  seems  to  have 
Map  24.  become  thoroughly  alarmed.     According  to  von  Billow,  he 
sent  him  the  following  messages,  which  von  Kluck  does  not 
give  or  allude  to  in  his  own  book  : 

10.10  A.M.  "  //.,  IV.  and  IV.  Reserve  Corps  heavily  engaged 
"  west  of  the  Lower  Ourcq.  Where  are  the  ///.  and  IX.  ?  What 
"  is  the  situation  there  ?  Reply  urgent." 

11.15  A.M.  "  Assistance  of  ///.  and  IX.  Corps  on  Ourcq  is 
"  very  urgent.  Enemy  considerably  reinforced.  Send  corps 
"  in  direction  La  Ferte  Milon  and  Crouy."  1 

At  1.15  P.M.  von  Kluck  issued  orders  to  these  corps  also 
to  press  forward  to  the  Ourcq  battlefield  as  fast  as  possible 
and  by  the  shortest  route.  He  states  that,  "  owing  to  the 
"  increasing  gravity  of  the  situation,  divisions  had  to  be 
"  thrown  in  simply  as  they  became  available,  and  thus 
"  became  separated  from  their  corps."  He  therefore  formed 
four  groups  under  the  four  corps  commanders,  Sixt  von 
Armin,  von  Quast,  von  Lochow  and  von  Linsingen. 

The  effect  of  the  change  of  front  of  the  whole  First  Army, 
which  from  facing  south  beyond  the  Marne  now  faced  west 
beyond  the  Ourcq,  and  of  the  simultaneous  wheel  back  of 
the  Second  Army  to  the  right  to  face  south-west  towards 
Paris,  was  to  create  a  gap  in  the  German  front  from  west 
of  Montmirail  to  Lizy  on  the  Ourcq — some  twenty  miles. 
To  fill  the  gap  there  were  available  only  the  Guard  and  5th 
Cavalry  Divisions  of  von  Richthofen's  Corps  and  the  2nd 
and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions  of  von  der  Marwitz's  Corps.  To 
support  them  von  Kluck  on  the  8th  September  sent  the 
5th  Division,  Kraewel's  Composite  Brigade  formed  .of  units 
of  the  IX.  Corps,  and  part  of  the  3rd  Division. 

As  his  divisions  came  up  von  Kluck  endeavoured  to  out- 
flank Maunoury  from  the  north,  and,  in  view  of  the  British 
Maps  25  advance,  ordered  the  destruction  of  the  Marne  bridges. 
&  26.  £[e  was  nearly  captured,  as  he  himself  tells  us,  on  the  evening 
of  the  8th  near  La  Ferte  Milon  by  a  raid  of  General  Cornulier- 

1  Billow,  p.  56. 


Luciniere's  Provisional  Cavalry  Division.1  Of  the  Second  7-8  Sept. 
Army  von  Billow  says  :  "  Although  the  fight  on  the  8th  1914- 
"  September  made  further  progress  in  the  centre  and  on 
"  the  left  wing,2  no  decisive  result  was  achieved.  The  un- 
"  supported  right  wing, — 1 3th  Division  and  X.  Reserve  Corps 
"  — on  the  other  hand,  in  order  not  to  be  enveloped,  had  to 
"  be  withdrawn  in  the  evening  to  the  line  Margny — Le 
"  Thoult."  3  Von  Biilow  now,  on  the  evening  of  the  8th, 
seems  to  have  lost  heart.  Aeroplanes  had  reported  the 
advance  of  the  British  columns  "  northwards  via  Rebais 
"  and  Doue  (3rd  and  5th  Divisions) ;  a  third  column  (4th 
"  Division)  advancing  north-eastwards  from  La  Haute 
"  Maison  "  ;  4  and  Franchet  d'Esperey  was  continuing  the 
attack  on  his  right,  with  one  column  wide  on  the  west 
moving  to  outflank  him.  He  says,  "  in  these  circumstances 
'*  the  probability  of  a  break-through  of  strong  enemy  forces 
"  between  the  First  and  Second  Armies  had  to  be  reckoned 
"  with,  unless  the  First  Army  decided  to  retire  in  an  easterly 
"  direction  and  regain  touch  with  the  Second  Army"  Far 
from  doing  so,  it  was  attacking  westwards.  Von  Billow's 
map  shows  the  French  Fifth  Army  and  the  British  Expedi- 
tionary Force  breaking  in  between  him  and  von  Kluck  and 
enveloping  his  right,  and  the  latter's  left  wing,  on  either 
side  of  the  gap, — a  sufficiently  alarming  situation  to  face. 
This  situation  would  become  even  more  critical  on  the  9th 
September,  if  the  pressure  developed.  Von  Kluck,  how- 
ever, had  a  piece  of  luck,  as  one  of  his  brigades  (LepeFs 
belonging  to  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps)  which  had  been  left 
behind  in  Brussels  came  up  and  appeared  almost  behind 
Maunoury's  left  flank.  He,  as  reported  by  General  von 
Kuhl,  his  Chief  of  the  Staff,  took  a  totally  different  view  of 
the  situation  from  von  Biilow.5 

"  On  the  right  wing  of  the  First  Army  a  successful  decision 
"  was  certain.  The  Army  had  been  so  disposed  that  the 
"  enemy's  (Maunoury's)  northern  flank  was  enveloped  and 
"  a  brigade  was  to  be  sent  to  interrupt  his  line  of  retreat. 
"  On  the  9th  the  fight  was  making  favourable  •  progress 
"  and  the  enemy  had  begun  to  give  way.  A  decision  was 

1  See  Kluck,  p.  119  ;  and  Hethay,  "  R61e  de  la  Cavalerie  Fran9aise," 
p.  148  et  seq. 

a  Against  General  Foch,  with  the  assistance  of  the  XII.  Reserve  Corps 
and  52nd  Division  and  2 3rd  Reserve  Division  of  the  German  Third  Army. 

8  See  p.  304.  Col.  Hentsch  reported  that  the  right  wing  of  the  Second 
Army  was  "  driven  back  not  drawn  back." 

4  Biilow,  pp.  59,  60. 

5  "  Militar  Wochenblatt,"  No.  39/1919. 

300  THE  MARNE 

"  certain  to  be  obtained  by  next  morning :  we  were 
convinced  of  it.  ...  Generaloberst  von  Kluck  had  not 
underestimated  the  danger  of  an  advance  of  the  British 
into  the  gap  between  the  First  and  Second  Armies.  He 
did  not,  however,  consider  that  much  could  be  expected 
from  the  British  troops.  After  their  long  retreat  and 
many  defeats,  they  could,  he  thought,  be  effectually 
held  up  on  .the  Marne  [which  they  were  not].  Even  if 
they  succeeded  in  advancing,  the  victory  over  Maunoury 
"  on  the  10th  would  compel  them  to  make  a  hasty  retreat. 
"  Further,  the  British  would  not  dare  to  make  an  un- 
"  supported  advance  whilst  the  French  were  being  defeated 
"  on  their  left,  and  their  communications  with  the  sea 
"  threatened.  Even  if  the  right  wing  of  the  Second  Army 
"  were  forced  back,  it  would  not  affect  the  final  issue  : 
"  rather,  if  the  victory  of  the  First  Army  were  decisive, 
"  it  would  make  the  enemy's  position  more  precarious." 

Von  Kuhl  himself,  writing  later,  takes  a  somewhat 
different  view.  He  says  :  "  After  it  was  established  that 
"  the  Second  Army  had  decided  in  the  morning  to  retire  and 
"  at  midday  the  troops  were  already  in  retreat,  as  there  was 
"  no  means  of  reversing  this  decision,  the  First  Army  Com- 
"  mand  had  to  conform.  Even  a  victory  over  Maunoury 
"  could  not  prevent  us  from  having  our  left  flank  enveloped 
"  by  superior  force,  and  from  being  driven  away  from  the 
"  main  army.  The  First  Army  stood  isolated."  x 

All  this  time,  from  the  5th  to  the  9th  September,2  no 
orders  came  from  the  Supreme  Command,  which  was 
established  more  than  130  miles  away  at  Luxembourg,  in 
no  better  communication  with  the  Armies  than  was  possible 
by  wireless  and  by  liaison  officers  in  motor  cars.3  Much  of 
its  attention  seems  to  have  been  directed  towards  the 
Russian  front.  Tannenberg  had  been  fought  (26th-29th 
August)  and  Samsonov's  Army  annihilated,  but  the  battle 
of  the  Masurian  Lakes  against  Rennenkampf  was  beginning 
only  on  the  8th  September.  On  the  south-east  front, 
though  the  Austrians  had  had  some  small  initial  successes 
on  the  left  at  Krasnik  (25th  August),  and  Komarow(26th 
August  to  2nd  September),  the  Russians  had  steadily 

1  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  219. 

2  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  187. 

8  The  grave  delay  in  the  transmission  of  wireless  messages  was  due 
to  there  being  only  one  receiving  station  at  O.H.L.  and  to  interruptions 
by  weather  and  the  Eiffel  Tower.  They  arrived  in  such  a  mutilated 
state  that  they  had  to  be  repeated  three  or  four  times.  Kuhl's  "  Marne," 
p.  28. 


pressed  on,  and  had  routed  the  Austrians  at  the  first  battle  4  Sept. 
of  Lemberg  (31st  August  to  2nd  September),  and  on  the  6th,  1914- 
the  very  day  of  the  commencement  of  the  battle  of  the 
Marne,  continuing  their  offensive,  they  began  the  battle  of 
Grodek  (6th  to  12th  September)  and  drove  the  Austrians 
headlong  across  the  San. 

From  the  evidence  of  the  German  operation  orders, 
it  would  appear  that  up  to  the  4th  September  the  Supreme 
Command  assumed  that  in  France  all  was  going  well  and 
according  to  plan.  On  the  right,  the  First  and  Second 
Armies  were  forcing  the  French  away  from  Paris  south- 
eastwards  ;  on  the  left  the  Sixth  and  Seventh  were  pressing 
on  to  the  Moselle.  In  the  centre  the  Third,  Fourth  and 
Fifth  Armies  were  "  heavily  engaged  against  superior 
forces "  ;  but  strategically  their  slow  progress  was  of 
advantage,  because  it  gave  time  for  the  wing  Armies  to 
move  forward  and  envelop  the  enemy.  It  looked  as  if 
the  French  would  either  be  surrounded  in  the  open  field, 
or  if  by  withdrawal  they  evaded  the  "  pincers  "  preparing 
for  them,  would  be  driven  up  against  the  Swiss  frontier. 

In  the  orders  of  the  4th  September,  7.45  P.M.,1  the 
failure  to  enclose  all  the  French  Armies  and  the  B.E.F.  was 
recognized.  "  The  enemy  has  evaded  the  envelopment  of 
"  the  First  and  Second  Armies,  and  part  of  his  force  has 
"  joined  up  with  those  about  Paris."  The  First  and 
Second  Armies  were  therefore  detailed  to  face  Paris  and 
act  against  any  attack  from  that  direction,  whilst  the 
Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies  were  to  press  south-east  and  the 
Sixth  and  Seventh  take  the  offensive  westwards  against 
the  Troupe  des  Charmes  between  Toul  and  Epinal,  so  as 
to  drive  together,  enclose  and  capture  the  French  Armies 
of  the  right  that  were  opposing  them.  Thus  von  Moltke 
seems  to  have  conceived  two  separate  battles,  one  near 
Paris,  and  the  other  near  Verdun.  The  Third  Army  was 
to  be  prepared  to  take  part  in  either,  as  required. 

So  important  did  he  consider  the  attack  in  Lorraine,  that 
when  the  threat  from  Paris  began  to  materialize,  he  still 
persevered  there,  instead  of  sending  every  man  who  could 
be  spared  from  the  left  to  the  vital  right  wing  in  accord- 
ance with  the  original  plan.  For  this  purpose  there  were 
trains  actually  waiting  on  the  sidings.  It  was  not  until 
the  9th  September  that  orders  were  given  for  the  transfer 
of  the  XV.  Corps  from  the  Seventh  Army  to  the  west. 
So  confident  was  Great  Headquarters  of  success,  that 

1  See  p.  266. 

302  THE  MARNE 

arrangements  were  actually  made  on  the  7th  for  the  visit 
of  the  Kaiser  to  his  victorious  Armies,  and  he  was  due  to 
be  at  Second  Army  headquarters  on  the  evening  of  the 
8th,1  when  a  meeting  of  a  very  different  kind  took  place 
there,  as  will  be  seen. 

No  orders  were  sent  to  the  First  and  Second  Armies 
from  O.H.L.  on  the  5th,  6th,  7th  or  8th — it  seems  to  have 
still  assumed  that  all  was  going  well  near  Paris  ;  the 
critical  aspect  of  the  situation  there  and  the  imperative 
necessity  of  co-ordinating  the  operations  of  the  Armies 
forming  the  German  right  wing  escaped  its  attention  until 
the  8th  September,  when  after  a  five  days'  battle  the 
attempt  of  the  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies  to  break  through 
in  Lorraine  and  cross  the  Moselle  had  to  be  abandoned. 

In  its  dilemma,  the  Supreme  Command  on  the  morning  of 
the  8th  September  despatched  Lieut. -Colonel  Hentsch  of  the 
Intelligence  Section  of  the  General  Staff  to  visit  the  Fifth, 
Fourth,  Third,  Second  and  First  Armies — a  round  trip  of 
some  400  miles — to  bring  back  a  clear  idea  of  the  situation, 
and  with  full  powers,  but  without  instructions  in  writing, 
to  order  in  the  name  of  O.H.L.  such  movements  as  he 
might  decide  on  in  order  to  co-ordinate  the  retreat,  "  should 
rearward  movements  have  already  been  initiated." 2 
Possibly  he  was  told  to  be  guided  by  the  views  of  General- 
oberst  von  Biilow,  the  senior  of  the  three  Army  commanders 
on  the  right  wing. 

Colonel  Hentsch  went  to  the  Fifth  and  Fourth  Armies, 
which  were  in  general  holding  their  own,  and  then  to  the 
headquarters  of  the  Third  Army  in  Chalons,  where  he 
arrived  in  the  afternoon  of  the  8th.  He  reported  the  situa- 
tion of  that  Army  to  O.H.L.  as  thoroughly  satisfactory. 
He  reached  the  headquarters  of  the  Second  Army  at 
Montmort  (13  miles  E.N.E.  of  Montmirail)  on  the  evening 
of  the  8th  and  spent  the  night  there.  Judging  by  von 
Billow's  version  of  the  situation,  which  has  already  been 
given,  he  must  have  found  gloomy  company.  Neither  von 
Biilow  nor  Hentsch  seems  to  have  known  that  the  First 
Army  was,  as  von  Kluck  now  states,  hoping  for  9,  decisive 
victory  next  day ;  the  last  news  that  he  had  sent  on  the 
evening  of  the  8th  was  that  he  was  still  engaged  with  strong 
forces  on  the  line  Cuvergnon — Congis.3 

1  Baumgarten-Crusius,  p.  110.     For  an  account  of  the  operations  in 
Lorraine  see  the  "  Army  Quarterly,"  vol.  ii.  p.  312. 

2  "  M.W.B.,"  12/1920. 

3  That  is,  facing  west,  west  of  the  Ourcq  (von  Biilow,  p.  59).   Cuvergnon 
is  near  Betz,  Congis  near  Lizy. 


Hentsch's   report   of  what   occurred   at  Second  Army  8-9  Sepi , 
headquarters  is  as  follows  : 1  1914- 

"  I  discussed  the  situation  thoroughly  with  General- 
"  oberst  v.  Billow,  General  von  Lauenstein  (his  Chief 
"  of  Staff)  and  Oberstleutnant  Matthes  (Operations)  on 
"  the  evening  of  the  8th  September  in  the  Chateau  of 
"  Montmort.  We  weighed  every  possibility  for  avoiding 
"  a  retreat ;  the  tone  of  the  Army  Staff  was  calm  and  con- 
"  fident.  At  5.30  A.M.  on  the  9th  September  I  examined 
"  the  situation  once  again  with  General  von  Lauenstein,  on 
"  the  basis  of  the  reports  that  had  come  in  during  the  night. 
"  After  the  First  Army  had  withdrawn  the  ///.  and  IX. 
"  Corps  from  the  Marne  to  its  right  wing,  there  was  no 
"  other  possibility  but  to  go  back  across  the  Marne  at 
"  once." 

Von  Billow  gives  more  definitely  the  reasons  that  forced 
the  retreat  upon  him.  He  adds  to  what  he  had  already 
said  on  the  evening  of  the  8th  :  2 — "  When  early  on  the  9th 
"  September  numerous  enemy  columns  crossed  the  Marne 
"  between  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  and  Chateau  Thierry, 
ic  there  remained  no  doubt  that  the  retreat  of  the  First 
"  Army  was,  for  both  tactical  and  strategical  reasons, 
"  unavoidable,  and  that  the  Second  Army  must  also  go 
"  back,  in  order  not  to  have  its  right  flank  completely 
44  enveloped." 

From  this  statement  of  von  Billow,  it  seems  clear  that 
it  was  the  advance  of  the  B.E.F.  which  had  influenced  him 
in  making  the  decision  to  retreat.  This  view  is  confirmed 
by  a  statement  of  an  officer  of  the  German  Great  General 
Staff,3  as  follows  :— 

"  At  Second  Army  headquarters  the  order  for  retreat 
"  was  given  without  consultation  with  the  two  neighbour- 
"  ing  Armies,  and  only  after  an  aeroplane  report  had  come 
"  in  of  the  advance  of  five  long  columns  against  the  Marne 
"  between  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  and  Chateau  Thierry.4 
"  Generaloberst  von  Billow  now  sent  a  wireless  message  to 
"  the  First  Army  that  he  was  beginning  the  retreat  behind 
"  the  Marne  between  Damery  and  Epernay.  Lieut.-Colonel 
"  Hentsch  had  left  before  this  happened,  to  order  the  retire- 
"  ment  of  the  First  Army  to  the  north-east." 

1  "  M.W.B.,"  12/1920.  «  See  p.  299. 

3  Lt.-Col.  Miiller-Loebnitz,  formerly  of  the  Great  General  Staff,  in 
"  Wissen  und  Wehr,"  p.  449/1920. 

*  Six  British  columns  and  a  French  cavalry  column  directed  on  Azy 
were  moving  against  this  section. 

304  THE  MARNE 

Von  Billow's  decision  was  recorded  in  a  message  sent 
to  O.H.L.  as  follows  :— 

"  Retirement  of  First  Army  behind  the  Aisne  compelled  by 
"  strategic  and  tactical  situation.  Second  Army  must  support 
"  First  Army  north  of  the  Marne,  otherwise  the  right  wing  of 
44  the  force  will  be  driven  in  and  rolled  up." 

After  a  counter-attack,  claimed  as  successful,  by  the 
centre  and  left,  the  Second  Army  commenced  its  retirement 
44  about  1  P.M."  (German  time).  In  anticipation  of  this,  a 
wireless  message,  received  at  1.4  P.M.  (German  time),1  was 
sent  by  von  Biilow  to  the  First  Army  as  follows  : — 

'4  Aviators  report  advance  of  four  long  enemy  columns 
44  against  the  Marne.  Heads  at  8  A.M.  Citry — Pavant — 
44  Nogent  TArtaud.  Second  Army  is  beginning  retirement 
44  right  flank  Damery."  2 

Meanwhile,  Lieut. -Colonel  Hentsch  had  motored  to 
First  Army  Headquarters  at  Mareuil,  which  he  reached 
shortly  after  12.30  P.M.  (German  time).  44  Owing  to  panics 
"  behind  the  line,"  3  he  took  seven  hours  to  travel  the  60 
miles  that  separated  them  from  those  of  the  Second  Army. 
There,  as  von  Kluck  bitterly  complains,  he  did  not  see  the 
Army  commander,  but  had  a  long  conference  with  General- 
major  von  Kuhl,  the  Chief  of  the  Staff.  A  full  account  of 
the  interview  is  given  in  the  German  First  Army  War 
Diary.4  According  to  this,  Hentsch  stated  : 

Sketch  5.  44  The  position  is  not  favourable.  The  Fifth  Army  is 
Map  2.  "  firmly  held  up  in  front  of  Verdun,  and  the  Sixth  and 
"  Seventh  also,  on  the  line  Nancy — Epinal.  The  Second 
"  Army  is  a  mere  remnant :  the  decision  for  its  retreat 
44  behind  the  Marne  cannot  be  altered.  Its  right  wing 
44  was  driven  back  and  not  withdrawn  voluntarily.  It  is 
"  necessary,  therefore,  to  readjust  the  whole  line  to  the  rear 
44  simultaneously :  Third  Army  to  north  of  Chalons, 
44  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies  in  touch  with  one  another 
44  through  Clermont  en  Argonne  towards  Verdun.  The 

1  Kluck,  p.  121.     This  is  no  doubt  the  wireless  message  mentioned 
just  above. 

2  Damery  was  corrected  twenty  hours  later  to  Dormans.  •  Citry  is 
opposite  Crouttes.     Pavant  is  between  Nogent  and  Crouttes.     The  four 
long  columns  were  the  British  1st,  2nd,  3rd  and  5th  Divisions.     Baum- 
garten-Crusius,  ii.  p.  122,  says  this  message  was  sent  at  11.45  (German 

»  "  M.W.B.,"  12/1920. 

4  Baumgarten-Crusius,  p.  134,  and  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  218.  Von 
Kuhl  says  that  he  made  his  report  to  von  Kluck  whilst  Lt.-Col.  Hentsch 
waited  outside  for  that  commander's  decision  ;  so  that  apparently  von 
Kluck  could  have  seen  Hentsch  had  he  wanted  to  do  so. 


"  First  Army  must  also  retire — direction  Soissons — Fere  en  9  Sept. 
"  Tardenois  ;  and  if  absolutely  necessary,  still  further,  even  1914- 
:c  as  far  as  the  line  Laon — La  Fere.     A  new  Army  is  being 
"  assembled  at  St.  Quentin,  so  that  fresh  operations  can 
"  be  begun." 

General  von  Kuhl  urged  that  the  attack  of  the  First  Maps  4 
Army  was  at  that  moment  in  full  swing  and  that  retreat  &  26- 
would  be  a  difficult  matter,  as  formations  were  much  mixed 
and  the  troops  very  tired.     Lieut. -Colonel  Hentsch  replied 
that,  nevertheless,  no  other  course  was  open  but  to  retire, 
at  any  rate,  as  far  as  Soissons,  with  the  left  wing  behind  the 
Aisne,  and  emphasized  that  his  instructions  were  to  be 
operative  in  spite  of  any  further  information  which  might 
be  received,  as  he  had  "  full  full-powers  (voile  Vollmacht)" 

General  von  Kuhl  states  that,  "  in  spite  of  lively  pro- 
11  tests,  the  headquarters  of  the  First  Army  had  to  obey 
"  and,  with  heavy  hearts  [at  2  P.M.  (German  time)],  issued 
"  orders  for  the  retreat." 

Hentsch's  account  is  somewhat  different.1     It  is  : 

;c  The  situation  of  the  First  Army  about  midday  [when 
"  the  conference  took  place]  was  such  that  the  left  wing 
"  had  already  received  the  order  to  go  back  to  the  line 
"  Crouy— Coulombs.2 

"  The  possibility  of  the  Second  Army  holding  the  line 
of  the  Marne  was  therefore  out  of  the  question  ;   it  must 
"  go  further  back,  if  its  flank  and  rear  were  not  to  be  en- 
'  veloped  by  the  British  on  the  10th  at  latest. 

1  "M.W.B.,"  12/1920. 

8  That  is,  across  the  Ourcq  and  to  face  south  against  the  British. 
Crouy  is  on  the  Ourcq  about  ten  miles  north  of  La  Fert6  sous  Jouarre, 
where  the  British  4th  Division,  the  left  of  the  B.E.F.,  crossed  the  Marne, 
and  Coulombs  is  8  miles  east  of  Crouy.  Von  Kluck's  map  shows  the 
5th  Division,  3rd  Division  and  IV.  Reserve  Corps  on  this  line.  Von  Kuhl 
("  Marne,"  p.  217)  admits  that  this  order  sent  at  10.80  A.M.  reached  Lin- 
singen's  Group,  but  says  it  contained  a  telephone  mistake.  What  was 
intended  was  that  he  should  "  bend  the  left  flank  back  over  the  Ourcq  and 
"  send  the  5th  Division  against  the  British  in  the  direction  Dhuisy  (2  miles 
"  south-east  of  Coulombs)."  He  says  Linsingen  withdrew  to  May  en  Multien 
— Coulombs,  the  same  line  as  Crouy— Coulombs  but  extended,  westwards 
to  May.  His  situation  map  for  9th  September  shows  von  Kluck's  right 
attacking  south-west  from  Betz,  and  the  First  Army  line  then  curving 
south-east  of  May  en  Multien  and  then  east  to  Coulombs,  with  the  5th 
Division  attacking  south-east  to  support  Kraewel's  Composite  Brigade. 
Hentsch's  statement  that  orders  for  retirement  were  issued  before  he 
arrived  at  von  Kluck's  headquarters  is  confirmed  by  two  officers  of  Lepel's 
brigade  (extreme  west  flank),  writing  in  the  M.W.B.  of  12th  Nov.  1921.  It 
is  therein  said  that  the  orders  for  the  brigade  to  retire  were  sent  "in  the 
forenoon  of  the  9th."  The  italics  of  "already"  are  his.  Orders  to  von 
Linsingen  to  swing  back  his  left  to  face  the  British  went  out  at  11.30  A.M. 
(German  time). 

VOL.  I  X 

306  THE  MARNE 

"  My  question,  whether  the  Second  Army  could  not  be 
"  assisted  at  once,  was  replied  to  in  the  negative,  on  account 
"  of  the  situation  on  the  left  wing. 

"  General  von  Kuhl  then  said  that  '  the  position  of  the 
"  '  right  wing  was  favourable  :  the  IV.  and  IX.  Corps  were 
"  *  attacking,  and  had  every  prospect  of  a  success.  More 
"  *  was  not  yet  known.' ' 

But  Hentsch  adds  : 

"  I  know,  however,  for  certain  that  just  at  this  time, 
"  a  report  from  the  IV.  Corps  came  in  that  it  could  not  carry 
"  out  the  attack,  as  it  was  itself  attacked  by  strong  forces. 
"  I  also  know  for  certain  that  I  asked  General  von  Kuhl 
"  if  the  First  Army  would  not  be  in  a  position  to  support 
"  the  Second  with  its  whole  force  next  day  [10th  September], 
"if  it  succeeded  in  defeating  its  own  immediate  enemy 
"  on  the  9th.  This  was  negatived  on  account  of  the  state 
"  of  the  Army."  * 

During  the  evening  of  the  9th  September  the  Third 
Army  received  a  wireless  message  from  O.H.L.  ordering  it 
to  remain  south  of  the  Marne.  At  9.30  P.M.  Lieut. -Colonel 
Hentsch  again  arrived  at  Third  Army  headquarters  at 
Chalons  on  his  way  back  to  O.H.L.  at  Luxembourg.  He 
informed  Third  Army  headquarters  that  the  order  to 
remain  south  of  the  Marne  had  been  issued  by  O.H.L. 
under  a  misapprehension  of  the  situation  on  the  German 
right  and  that,  as  the  First  and  Second  Armies  were,  as  a 
matter  of  fact,  retreating  next  day,  the  Third  Army  should 
act  on  its  own  responsibility  and  not  read  O.H.L.  order 
literally.2  On  this  view  of  the  situation  the  Staff  of  the 
Third  Army  had  come  to  a  decision  to  retreat,  when  at 
10.30  P.M.  a  direct  order  was  received  from  O.H.L.  by 
wireless,  instructing  the  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  to  attack 
as  early  as  possible  on  the  10th  September.  In  compliance 
with  this  order,  the  Third  Army  resumed  the  offensive, 
which  soon  became  abortive,  owing  to  the  withdrawal  of  the 
Second  Army  on  its  right  in  accordance  with  the  decision 
made  by  Generaloberst  von  Bulow. 

It  was  not  until  1.15  P.M.  on  the  10th  September  that 
von  Biilow  learnt  that  O.H.L.  approved  of  Hentsch's 

1  Von  Kluck,  p.  123,  says  that  Hentsch  gave  the  reasons  "  shaking  clear 
"  from  Maunoury,  reorganization  of  the  corps  [divisions  and  brigades  were 
"  mixed  up],  replacing  ammunition  and  supplies,  sending  off  the  Train, 
"  arranging  for  security  of  communications,  all  measures  taking  up  much 
"  time." 

2  Baumgarten-Crusius,  p.  139. 


action.     He  then  received  the  following  order,  which  must  10  Sept. 
have  been  bitter  reading  for  von  Kluck  :  1914- 

"  First  Army  until  further  orders  is  placed  under  com- 
44  mander  of  Second  Army." 

At  5.45  P.M.  further  orders  arrived  : 1  Maps  2 

&  4. 
44  Second  Army  will  go  back  behind  the  Vesle,  left  flank 

14  Thuizy  (10  miles  south-east  of  Rheims).  First  Army  will 
44  receive  instructions  from  Second  Army.  Third  Army,  in 
44  touch  with  Second  Army,  will  hold  the  line  Mourmelon  le 
44  Petit — Franch.  Fourth  Army,  in  touch  with  Third,  north  of 
44  the  Rhine — Marne  Canal  as  far  as  Revigny  area.  Fifth  Army 
44  will  remain  where  it  is.  The  positions  reached  by  the  Armies 
44  will  be  entrenched  and  held." 

On  this,  von  Billow  sent  the  following  order  to  von 
Kluck  : 2 

44  The  First  Army  on  llth  September  will  retire  behind  the 
44  Aisne  and,  covered  by  the  Aisne  valley,  will  close  on  the  right 
44  of  the  Second  Army.  The  passages  of  the  Vesle  valley  at 
44  Braisne  and  Fismes  are  being  blocked  by  the  Second  Army 
44  with  a  mixed  brigade  at  each  place." 

Meantime,  on  the  9th,  von  Kluck,  acting  on  Hentsch's 
instructions,  had  issued  preliminary  orders  at  2  P.M., 
followed  by  others  at  8.15  P.M.,  for  a  retirement  in  the 
general  direction  of  Soissons. 

Ludendorff  has  said,  and  we  may  for  the  moment  agree 
with  him  :— 

"  Whether  the  decision  of  the  Second  Army  head- 
;t  quarters  and  the  order  of  Lieut. -Colonel  Hentsch  to  the 
44  First  Army  headquarters  to  retreat  were  actually 
"  necessary  from  the  situation  must  be  decided  by  historical 
"  research  in  later  years."  3 


As  the  line  of  retreat  of  the  German  First  Army  appeared 
to  lie  more  or  less  across  the  British  front,  there  seemed 
some  hope  of  intercepting  it.  Acting,  therefore,  in  anti- 

1  Billow,  p.  63.  2  Biilow,  p.  63. 

3  Memorandum  with  reference  to  Lieut.-Colonel  Hentsch's  responsibility 
for  the  order  to  retreat  from  the  Marne,  circulated  down  to  Divisional 
Staffs  24th  May  1917.  In  this  it  was  stated  that  "  he  acted  solely  in 
"  accordance  with  instructions  given  to  him  by  the  then  Chief  of  the  General 
"  Staff  of  the  Field  Armies  "  ("  M.W.B.,"  12/1920). 

308  THE  MARNE 

cipation  of  General  Joffre's  written  instructions — which 
arrived  next  day, — to  the  effect  that,  in  order  to  confirm 
and  take  advantage  of  the  success  already  gained,  the 
German  forces  should  be  followed  with  energy  so  as  to 
allow  them  no  rest  —  Sir  John  French  at  8.15  P.M.  on  the 
9th  September  ordered  his  troops  to  continue  the  pursuit 
northwards  at  5  A.M.  the  next  morning.1 

The  instructions  issued  by  G.Q.G.  to  General  Maunoury 
directed  him  to  continue  to  gain  ground  with  the  Sixth 
Army  to  the  north,  supporting  his  right  on  the  Ourcq, 
so  as  to  endeavour  to  envelop  the  enemy's  right.  General 
Bridoux,  who  had  replaced  General  Sordet  in  command  of 
the  Cavalry  Corps,  was  to  extend  this  action  and  reach  the 
flank  and  rear  of  the  enemy.  The  8th  Division  was  to 
support  the  left  of  the  British,  who,  General  Joffre  hoped, 
would  reach  the  heights  south  of  the  Clignon. 

Sketch  6.  Low  clouds  and  heavy  mists  made  aerial  reconnaissance 
Maps  4,  aimOst  impossible  until  late  in  the  forenoon  of  the  10th 
September  ;  the  pursuit  ordered  by  Sir  John  French  was 
begun,  but  it  appeared  by  7.15  A.M.  that  the  Germans 
were  clear  of  the  valleys  of  the  Ourcq  and  Marne;  from 
Ocquerre  (2  miles  north-east  of  Lizy)  to  Changis,  nothing 
was  visible  from  the  air,  except  a  small  convoy  and  its 
escort  on  an  unimportant  road  7  miles  north-east  of 
Lizy.  Meanwhile,  the  Cavalry  Division,  under  Major- 
General  Allenby,  on  the  extreme  right  of  the  B.E.F.,  had 
marched  at  5  A.M.  to  the  high  ground  north-west  of 
Bonnes  (7  miles  north-west  of  Chateau  Thierry),  where 
it  came  under  heavy  artillery  fire  from  Latilly,  about  two 
miles  to  the  north,  and  suffered  some  loss.  The  5th 
Dragoon  Guards  pushed  on  to  Latilly,  but,  finding  the 
village  strongly  occupied  by  German  cyclists  and  cavalry, 
awaited  the  arrival  of  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  and  Z 
Battery  R.H.A. ; 2  when  they  came  up  the  Germans  de- 

Proceeding  to  the  summit  of  a  hill  a  little  further  north- 
east, the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade,  between  11  A.M.  and  noon, 
caught  sight  of  the  main  body  of  a  German  rear  guard — 
five  regiments  of  cavalry,  two  batteries,  a  couple  of  hundred 
cyclists,  and  five  hundred  wagons,  moving  from  La  Croix 
(2  miles  north-east  of  Latilly)  northwards  upon  Oulchy 

1  Appendix  42. 

2  On  4th  Sept.  one  section  each  from  D  and  I  Batteries  were  formed 
temporarily  into  a  four-gun  battery  and  called  Z  ;  on  16th  Sept.  a  section 
from  J  Battery  replaced  the  section  from  D.     When  H  Battery  joined  the 
1st  Cavalry  Division,  Z  Battery  was  broken  up  (28th  Sept.). 


le  Chateau.  This  party  was  not  more  than  two  miles  away,  10  Sept. 
but,  as  the  ground  had  been  soaked  by  heavy  rain,  Z  Battery  1914- 
could  not  get  into  action  until  all  but  the  wagons  of  the 
column  had  passed  out  of  reach  ;  and  when  it  did  open  fire, 
it  was  silenced  by  German  guns  of  greater  range.  The  four 
batteries  of  the  Cavalry  Division  therefore  advanced  north- 
eastwards through  La  Croix,  and  at  1.30  P.M.  again  opened 
fire  on  the  convoy.  Then  a  French  cavalry  division  of 
Conneau's  Corps,  supported  by  infantry  in  motor  lorries, 
came  up  from  Rocourt  (3  miles  east  of  Latilly),  fell  on 
the  flank  of  the  column  of  wagons,  and  captured  the  greater 
part  of  it. 

On  the  left  of  General  Allenby's  cavalry,  the  1st  Division 
advanced  from  Le  Thiolet  north-north-west  upon  Cour- 
champs,  the  2nd  Infantry  Brigade  leading.  Soon  after  8  A.M. 
the  Divisional  Cavalry  brought  intelligence  that  the  enemy 
was  in  position  beyond  Priez,  a  couple  of  miles  to  the  north 
of  Courchamps  on  the  northern  side  of  the  Alland,  a  small 
stream  in  a  wide  shallow  valley.  The  Sussex  and  North- 
amptons  were  therefore  pushed  through  Priez,  where  they 
deployed  and  began  to  ascend  the  hill  beyond  it.  They  were 
met  by  heavy  artillery  and  rifle  fire  at  a  range  of  less  than 
a  thousand  yards,  but  continued  to  advance  slowly  until 
some  British  battery  in  rear,  mistaking  them  for  Germans, 
also  shelled  them  severely  and  they  fell  back  on  Priez. 
Some  of  the  men  in  retiring  passed  by  the  observing  station 
of  the  40th  Battery  and  through  the  intervals  between  the 
howitzers,  drawing  the  German  fire  upon  both ;  Brigadier- 
General  Findlay,  who  was  reconnoitring  a  position  for 
his  guns,  was  killed  by  a  shell.  There  then  ensued  a  lull 
in  the  fighting  during  which  the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade, 
heading  for  Latilly,  came  up  on  the  right  of  the  2nd  Infantry 
Brigade  and  the  5th  Infantry  Brigade  on  its  left,  making 
for  Monnes  against  slight  opposition.  In  face  of  this  display 
of  force,  between  2  and  3  P.M.,  the  Germans  began  to  fall 
back  slowly.  The  British  batteries  followed  them  up,  but 
did  not  arrive  within  effective  range  until  the  German 
columns,  after  crossing  the  Ourcq,  were  filing  out  of  Chouy 
(5  miles  north  of  Priez),  when  both  field  guns  and  howitzers 
opened  fire  on  them,  apparently  with  good  effect. 

Further  west,  the  two  cavalry  brigades  under  Brigadier- 
General  Gough,  and  the  2nd  and  3rd  Divisions  were  more 
successful.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  led  the  way,  with 
the  20th  Hussars  as  advanced  guard  covering  a  front 
of  5  miles  from  Bussiares  (1  mile  west  of  Torcy)  to 

310  THE  MARNE 

Germigny.  At  6.30  A.M.  a  hostile  column  was  sighted 
moving  north-eastward  from  Brumetz  (3  miles  north  of 
Germigny)  upon  Chezy,  while  another,  composed  chiefly 
of  wagons,  was  halted  on  the  slopes  between  those  two 
villages.  The  brigade  therefore  moved  westwards  to 
Fremont  (1  mile  north-east  of  Germigny),  whence  J 
Battery  opened  fire  at  long  range  ;  and,  as  there  was  no 
reply  to  this  fire,  Brigadier-General  Chetwode  at  9  A.M. 
advanced  for  about  another  mile  northward  to  the  high 
ground  south  of  Gandelu,  whence  he  sent  two  squadrons 
of  the  Scots  Greys  to  clear  that  village,  and  ordered  the 
12th  Lancers  to  cross  the  Clignon  a  little  further  to  the  west 
at  Brumetz,  and  to  cut  off  the  enemy's  retreat. 

Meanwhile,  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade  and  the  XXXIV. 
Brigade  R.F.A.,  which  formed  the  advanced  guard  of  the 
2nd  Division,  were  crossing  the  valley  of  the  Clignon 
at  Bussiares  (4  miles  east  of  Gandelu)  to  the  right  of 
Gough's  cavalry ;  and,  when  Hautevesnes,  2  miles  further 
on,  was  reached  soon  after  9  A.M.,  a  German  convoy  could 
be  seen  a  mile  or  more  to  the  west  toiling  up  the  road  from 
Vinly  in  the  valley  of  the  Clignon  north-westwards  towards 
Chezy.  Four  guns,  which  formed  part  of  its  escort,  un- 
limbered  on  the  heights  above  Brumetz,  while  the  infantry 
took  up  a  position  in  a  sunken  road,  facing  eastward,  to 
meet  the  storm  that  threatened  them  from  Hautevesnes. 
The  British  batteries  coming  into  action  soon  forced  the 
German  guns  to  retire;  and  shortly  after  10  A.M.  the  6th 
Infantry  Brigade  was  ordered  to  attack.  The  1 /King's 
Royal  Rifle  Corps  deployed  and  advanced  over  ground 
which  offered  not  an  atom  of  cover.  Nevertheless,  the 
riflemen  closed  to  within  seven  hundred  yards  of  the 
Germans,  and  at  that  range  pinned  them  to  their  cover, 
whilst  the  1/R.  Berks,  on  the  right,  and  the  2 /South 
Staffordshire  on  the  left  worked  round  both  of  their  flanks, 
when  the  whole  line  of  Germans  surrendered,  having  lost 
about  one  hundred  and  fifty  killed  and  wounded  out  of  a 
total  of  about  five  hundred  present.  They  were  found  to 
be  men  of  the  4th  Jager,  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division,  the 
Guard  Cavalry  Division,  and  the  27th  Infantry  Regiment 
of  the  IV.  Corps. 

Meanwhile,  in  Gough's  force  the  12th  Lancers  had 
caught  a  party  of  nearly  three  hundred  more,  with  thirty 
wagons  and  four  machine  guns,  who  had  been  driven  from 
Gandelu  by  the  Greys.  Moreover,  the  9th  Infantry  Brigade 
and  the  107th  Battery,  the  advanced  guard  of  the  3rd 


Division,  coming  up  between  the  2nd  Division  and  the  10  Sept. 
cavalry,  had  struck  into  the  wood  from  Veuilly  (2  miles  1914- 
west  of  Bussiares)  north-westward  upon  Vinly  whilst  the 
6th  Infantry  Brigade  was  attacking  from  Hautevesnes, 
and  had  taken  another  six  hundred  prisoners,  a  most 
variegated  assortment,  consisting  of  men  of  the  //.,  ///. 
and  IV.  Corps  9  of  all  three  J tiger  battalions  of  the  9th 
Cavalry  Division,  and  of  Jager  battalions  of  the  2nd  and 
4th  Cavalry  Divisions  ;  all  divisions  of  von  der  Marwitz's 
Cavalry  Corps  were  thus  represented.  These,  with  the  excep- 
tion of  a  party  entrenched  to  north  of  Vinly,  had  offered 
no  very  serious  resistance.  The  country  was,  however, 
so  close  that  many  Germans  were  left  undiscovered  in 
the  valley  of  the  Clignon,  from  which  they  continued  to 
issue  for  some  days  to  plunder  the  neighbouring  villages 
and  oppress  the  villagers,  until  they  were  gradually 

Throughout  this  little  action,  General  Haig  had  been 
chafing  to  act  on  a  message  received  about  9  A.M.  from 
General  Maud'huy  of  the  French  XVIII.  Corps  on  his 
right,  giving  him  intelligence  that  fifty-four  German  heavy 
guns  were  moving  from  Lizy  sur  Ourcq  north-eastward 
upon  Oulchy  and  offering  to  co-operate  in  capturing  them. 
As  the  heads  of  both  the  1st  and  2nd  Divisions  were  sharply 
engaged  at  the  moment,  he  could  give  no  immediate  orders  ; 
and  the  clouds  were  so  low  that  later  in  the  forenoon,  when 
he  asked  for  more  exact  indications  from  the  Flying  Corps,  , 
such  observation  as  was  possible  gave  no  definite  result. 
By  1  P.M.  the  German  column  was  too  far  north  to  be 

West  of  the  3rd  Division,  the  5th  Division  and  the 
III.  Corps  met  with  no  opposition.  The  former  advanced 
to  Montreuil  early,  but  Kraewel's  Brigade  had  slipped 
away,  and  it  was  too  late  to  cut  off  any  of  it  except  a  few 
wounded.  The  III.  Corps,  being  occupied  for  the  best 
part  of  the  day  with  the  passage  of  the  Marne  by  a  pontoon 
bridge  at  La  Fert£  sous  Jouarre  and  the  railway  bridge 
at  Le  Saussoy,  was  obliged  to  content  itself  with  occasion- 
ally shelling  distant  targets  and  with  the  collection  of 
stragglers.  The  British  casualties  on  this  day  did  not 
exceed  three  hundred  and  fifty,  two-thirds  of  which  were 
incurred  by  the  2nd  Infantry  Brigade  in  its  check  near 
Priez,  and  the  remainder  by  the  6th  Infantry  Brigade  in 
its  successful  action  near  Hautevesnes.  For  these  the 
capture  of  some  eighteen  hundred  Germans,  including 

312  THE  MARNE 

wounded,1  as  well  as  the  battery  taken  by  the  Lincoln- 
shire, offered  some  compensation ;  and  the  spirits  of 
the  troops  rose  high  at  the  sight  of  so  much  abandoned 
German  transport  and  of  so  many  German  stragglers, 
all  pointing  to  the  beginning  of  some  confusion  among 
the  enemy.  Nevertheless,  it  was  a  disappointment  that 
the  Germans  had  not  been  more  severely  punished.  The 
Sketch  6.  general  advance  during  the  day  was  about  ten  miles.  On 
Maps  4  the  evening  of  the  10th  September  the  four  divisions  of 
the  I.  and  II  Corps  were  astride  the  river  Alland,  with  the 
cavalry  in  front  astride  the  upper  course  of  the  Ourcq, 
and  the  III.  Corps  behind  the  left  flank.  In  detail,  the 
positions  were  : — 

Cavalry  Division     .        .     Breny,  Rozet. 
3rd  and  5th  Cavalry  Macogny    (1J    miles     east    of 

Brigades  Passy),  Marizy,  Passy,  Mosloy 

(2  miles  west  of  Passy). 

I.  Corps    .        .        .        .     Latilly,  westward  through  Rassy 

to  Monnes. 

II.  Corps         ,        .        .     Dammard,  St.  Quentin,  Chezy. 

III.  Corps        .        .        .     Vaux  sous  Coulombs,  and  south- 

ward   through    Coulombs    to 


Sketch  6.  On  the  evening  of  the  10th  September  Conneau's  Cavalry 
Corps  had  reached  Fere  en  Tardenois,  level  with  the  right 
of  the  British  Cavalry  Division  ;  the  French  XVIII.  Corps 
was  abreast  of  the  British  I.  Corps,  but  the  remainder  of 
the  Fifth  Army  was  still  close  to  the  Marne.  On  the  left 
of  the  British  Army,  the  French  Sixth  Army  was  changing 
front  to  the  north  by  wheeling  up  its  right,  which  was 
approaching  La  Ferte*  Milon — practically  level  with  the 
British.  By  General  Joffre's  Special  Instruction  No.  21, 
dated  10th  September,  the  British  force  had  definite 
boundaries  assigned  to  it  between  which  it  was  to  advance  : 
the  road  Fere  en  Tardenois — Bazoches  (3  miles  west  of 
Fismes)  on  the  right  and  La  Ferte  Milon — Longpont — 
Soissons  (but  exclusive  of  this  town)  on  the  left ;  these 
involved  the  Army's  inclining  half  right.  Accordingly 

1  The  I.  and  II.  Corps  took  1,000  prisoners,  the  III.  Corps  500  (chiefly 
wounded  and  stragglers),  and  the  cavalry  300.  The  total  British  casualties 
from  the  6th  to  10th  Sept.  were :— I.  Corps,  779 ;  II.  Corps,  654 ;  III.  Corps 
(4th  Division  and  19th  Infantry  Brigade),  133 ;  Cavalry,  135 ;  total  1,701, 


operation  orders  for  the  Army  on  the  llth  directed  it  to  11  Sept. 
continue  the  pursuit  north-eastward  at  5  A.M.,  crossing  the  1914- 
Ourcq  and  making  for  a  line  from  Bruyeres  (3  miles  west 
of  Fere  en  Tardenois),  north-westward  through  Cugny  to  St. 
Remy  and  thence  2J  miles  westward  to  La  Loge  Farm.1 
The  march  proved  a  troublesome  one,  for  the  front  allotted 
was  so  narrow  that  it  was  impossible  to  assign  a  separate 
road  to  each  division.  The  advance  was  covered  by  the 
cavalry,  General  Allenby's  division  making  good  the  ground 
from  Fere  en  Tardenois  westward  to  within  about  a  mile 
of  the  road  from  Chateau  Thierry  to  Soissons,  and  General 
Gough's  two  brigades  the  space  from  that  line  for  some 
three  miles  further  west.  The  advance  of  the  cavalry 
brought  it  to  a  line:  Cuiry  Housse  (6J  miles  north  of 
Fere  en  Tardenois)  through  Buzancy  to  Vierzy  (9  miles 
west  of  Cuiry  Housse).  No  large  parties  of  the  enemy 
were  seen  except  a  brigade  of  cavalry  at  Braisne  on  the 
Vesle  (3J  miles  north-east  of  Cuiry  Housse)  and  a  party 
of  infantry  throwing  up  entrenchments  at  Noyant  (9  miles 
west  of  Braisne).  There  were  clear  indications  that  hostile 
cavalry  had  retired  in  two  bodies  upon  Braisne  and 
Soissons,  the  former  in  good  order,  the  latter  in  some 
confusion ;  but  although  wounded  and  stragglers  were 
picked  up  there  was  no  encounter  of  any  kind  with  the 

The  march  of  the  infantry,  therefore,  was  wholly  un- 
disturbed, except  for  the  congestion  of  the  roads — the  III. 
Corps,  in  particular,  was  long  delayed  by  a  French  column 
— and  by  rain  which  came  down  heavily  in  the  afternoon 
and  drenched  the  men  to  the  skin. 

The  general  advance  on  the  llth  was  again  about  ten  Sketch  6. 
miles.     At  nightfall  the  three  centre  divisions  were  across  MaP  28* 
the  Ourcq  with  the  cavalry  in  front  5  miles  from  the  Vesle, 
and  the  1st  and  4th  Divisions  echeloned  back  on  either 
flank.     In  detail : — 

Cavalry  Division  .  Loupeigne  (3J  miles  N.N.E.  of  Fere 
en  Tardenois),  westward  to  Arcy 
Ste.  Restitue  (4J  miles  N.N.W.  of 

Gough's  Cavalry  Parcy  Tigny  (6}  miles  west  of  Arcy), 
Brigades  north  to  Villemontoire. 

I.  Corps  .  .  .  Beugneux  (3  miles  W.S.W.  of  Arcy), 
Bruyeres,  south-west  to  Rocourt, 
Oulchy  le  Chateau. 

1  Appendix  43. 

314  THE  MARNE 

II.  Corps  .  .  Hartennes,  south  -  east  to  Grand 
Rozoy  (just  west  of  Beugneux), 
Oulchy  la  Ville,  Billy  sur  Ourcq, 
St.  Remy  (all  just  north-west  of 
Oulchy  le  Chateau). 

III.  Corps        .        .     La  Loge  Farm  to  Chouy. 

G.H.Q.      .        .        •     Coulommiers. 

The  inner  flanks  of  the  French  Armies  on  either  side 
of  the  B.E.F,  were  abreast  of  and  in  touch  with  it. 


Sketches  Low  clouds  and  rain  made  aerial  reconnaissance  so 
*  Difficult  that  the  Flying  Corps  could  furnish  no  reports 
.  of  value  on  the  12th.  News,  however,  came  that  Maubeuge 
had  fallen  on  the  7th,  an  event  which  was  most  opportune 
for  the  enemy,  since  it  released  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps  and 
other  German  troops  for  work  further  south.  The  German 
Armies  were  falling  back,  mostly  in  a  north-easterly 
direction,  along  the  whole  front  as  far  as  the  Argonne,  with 
exhausted  horses,  deficient  supplies,  and  signs  of  failing 
ammunition.  It  remained  to  be  seen  how  much  further 
the  Allies  could  push  their  success.  There  was  no  sign 
yet  of  any  movement  of  enemy  reinforcements  from  the 
north,  but  there  were  some  indications  that  the  enemy 
might  hold  the  line  of  the  Aisne  :  it  was  impossible,  how- 
ever, to  forecast  in  what  strength,  and  whether  as  a  mere 
rear-guard  or  as  a  battle  position. 

The  situation  with  which  the  Allies  were  now  confronted 
was  by  no  means  clear.  If  the  retreat  of  the  German 
Armies  from  the  Marne  had  been  followed  by  disorganiza- 
tion and  loss  of  moral,  as  appeared  probable  from  the 
numerous  stragglers  and  the  mix-up  of  units  evident  from 
the  prisoners  captured,  the  operation  of  converting  con- 
fusion into  disaster  must  be  of  the  nature  of  a  pursuit. 
If,  on  the  other  hand,  their  power  of  resistance,  though 
diminished  by  heavy  loss,  was  unbroken,  as  had  been  the 
case  of  the  Allies  in  the  retreat  to  the  Seine,  the  problem 
of  completing  their  discomfiture  would  involve  bringing 
them  to  action  again,  and  winning  a  fresh  battle  before 
pursuit,  properly  so  called,  could  be  resumed.  Orders 
quite  appropriate  to  the  pursuit  of  a  broken  and  dis- 
organized enemy  can  be  wholly  unsuited  to  the  very 
different  problem  of  beating  an  unbroken  f